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Holiday season = stress test?

My SAP colleagues in Walldorf and also friends living in this region just finished their Whitsun school holidays. As I live in a different county, Hessen, I am in the “bad position” to have no Whitsun school holidays at all. But, the lucky advantage is that our summer school holidays are starting already end of June… so only one week to go for me. This year, we decided not to travel abroad and enjoy the weather and the region here around my home. As I used to travel much more as of participating in different events spread all over the world, this helps me also to reduce my carbon foot print. But that was not the only reason. Nowadays, the daily life is much more busy than ever. We rush from meeting to meeting, from business trip to business trip, from private activities to official school activities (when you have kids). Even so, right before the vacation, there are so many things need to be done, a lot of closing ceremonies, at school, at kindergarten, at sport clubs or other societies and so many things like “oh yeah, let’s finish this quickly before vacation”… like a stress test. Sometimes I have the feeling it’s hardly manageable. And in these times it’s much more important to stay calm and keep your easiness. Meditation and retreat should be considered and actually, for me, it’s the best way to gain back control.

How are you handling the crazy times before vacation or school holidays start? Maybe there are good ways worth sharing with the community. I am looking forward to them!

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20 Comments

  • Jun 26 at 06:40 PM

    No comments yet?? :-(

    What the heck...

    With my kids grown and gone I don't have the things at this time of the year you mention to worry about. But Spring in general is a very busy time for me in my avocations and volunteer work. I have had to try to plan better and delegate more. Both challenging tasks for me!

    I had some trips this spring. I've not gotten worried about packing anymore. I've narrowed things down to some critical items. Basically my carry on bag. Computer, charger, cell phone, I-pad, ear buds. And of course passport, tickets, etc. After that, I've just resigned myself to knowing I'll forget to pack something and will just plan on buying it somewhere along the way or doing without. i.e. don't sweat over it.

    We kind of had the same thought process with the kids on vacation years ago. If its forgotten, we'll get it there or do without. Sometimes those things we had to buy while traveling become our favorite things once back home. (It's how I found my favorite shave butter, I just can't get in the US! Feel free to send me some "Rock Face Shave Butter" anytime!!).

    Also, trying to prioritize your "down" time, whatever that might be. As you said meditation and retreat. But it could be the glass of wine before dinner, or the coffee at sunset, or the pint after work. (funny how I'm focused on refreshment). Ok.. maybe its a morning run.

    Especially, if you make time for it regularly. Don't let that be what is squeezed out of your schedule first.

    My two cents.

    Craig

    • Jun 27 at 06:08 AM

      Thanks, Craig, that helps a lot. I also think that you are at a totally different point of life so it's even better to read your recommendations. It's more or less "to be above such things"... I like it! Will try to keep it in these last days before vacation starts and hopefully also further along ... for my upcoming business trips ;-)

  • Jun 27 at 04:25 AM

    I have exactly opposite situation when all things done/completed easier before holidays.

    When you know how to prioritize all tasks (yes, both : family + business) it doesn’t really matter how many of them you should complete before your next holidays. Just work on them thinking how perfect will be your holiday break.

    Is this just me? I believe there are people who merge a holiday period with a minimum stress.

    P.S. We have 3 kids and travel together almost every year including 8-14 hours flights.

    • Jun 27 at 06:14 AM

      Hi Oleg, wow, it sounds like you are really well organized. And traveling with three children on such long flights sounds not easy for me. Well done (on the business and the family), and I hope you will always keep it like that! And safe travels for your next trips! :-)

    • Jun 27 at 01:24 PM

      Long flights with 3 small kids is an adventure in itself! And then even after you get off the plane there is security and customs and waiting for baggage and transportation. If you can manage all this without getting arrested you can do anything!

  • Jun 28 at 07:52 AM

    The stress test, for me, are holidays themselves.

    Not my holidays, but the 3 months off kids have from school here in Italy, with parents asking themselves "And now, how do I manage this?".

    So... run to find a summer camp not asking you your limb as payment, go beg grandparents to keep the beasts, split your holidays so parents cover as much as they can the time off.

    • Jun 28 at 01:25 PM

      Haha, only two months here (in Belgium) but eitherway, the same problems occur here too. Nevertheless, a great time to spend time together if you are lucky enough to take some time off. We have some good public infrastructure and activities, such as community pools, accessible walking trails in the woods and pretty descent cycling roads. So that helps a great deal in keeping my two boys occupied, provided they have some supervision (of ourselves as parents or another familymember) ... Enjoy your summer!

      • 4 days ago

        And only 6 weeks in Germany... but still a challenge for a lot of people. In my case I am lucky to have an all-day care for primary school pupil the last three weeks of summer vacation. But this is really a regional agreement so not everyone is benefinting from it.

        Have a great summer anyway!

        • 3 days ago

          Today I woke up at 6 am, get ready, pick up Marta (she said to greet you :) ), bring her to my parents-in-law (thankfully same village), go back, pick up the little one, bring him to my parents (30 kms from home) and then drive for 40 kms to work.
          I arrived in office at 9 and... I'm already tired O_o

          • 3 days ago

            I am sorry to hear that :-(
            This is really hard and I hope you will get through it and can at least concentrate on your work items...

            But thanks very much for the greetings and say hello to Marta, too. She is such a nice girl :-)

            Sending you a lot of strength and energy from here!

  • 2 days ago

    I sometimes wonder if all the de-stressing of taking a holiday is negated by the extra stress wrapping up work before and then catching up on lost work time after. But, I don't have the issue that others do of managing around kids' school holidays (though I work for a school district!).

    So, I think that holidays and vacations are important, but it's equally important to find ways to manage stress every day. Craig talked about small daily things, perhaps before- or after-work activities, and for me it comes down to exercise, writing, and as much as possible not taking work home with me. I'm not an incessant checker of work email once the business day is done, though I'm still trying to train my boss to rid this bad habit for himself. Sometimes I think we need the same law as France: it's illegal to send email to employees after hours there!

    • yesterday

      Serendipitously, this morning on my commute in to work there was a piece on the radio about this very topic, and how Americans tend to not take all the vacation they are due. Americans already usually earn less vacation than workers in many other developed nations, but beyond this, on average they use only 54% (if I remember the stat correctly) of the vacation they do earn, letting the rest "expire." 4% of Americans take NO vacation at all, ever.

      When delving into the reasons for this, there are many, but the one that struck me was managers who give off verbal or non-verbal cues that it's not ok to take vacation. They'll say "Yes, you should take vacation," but when the employee asks, it's somehow never the right time due to workloads or projects.

      Another point raised in the piece was the very thing I said above: people sometimes don't take vacations they have earned because they become too stressed about working extra hours beforehand to get all the work caught up, and then extra hours afterwards to catch up on what was missed.

      • yesterday

        As an American, I can confirm...although I would never cite "verbal or non-verbal cues" as the reason. If anything, the managers at SAP are very sincere when urging employees to take vacation.

        To give an example..

        Back in 2011 (long before I took a position with SAP Community), I had surgery in late summer that required three months of short-term disability leave (which does not come out of vacation time). During my annual review at the beginning of 2012, my manager at the time (who is German) asked why I had so much unused vacation time. I said, "Well, I lost three months for my surgery, When I returned in October, I didn't think I should immediately try to use up all of my vacation time by the end of the year."

        Her response? "You really need to take your vacation time."

        I dunno...perhaps it's cultural. Or my own paranoia. I was off last week, and I'm still fretting about what I need to do to catch up.

        I suppose I should relax more, but when I do, I feel like I'm slacking...in fact, what am I doing in Coffee Corner? I gotta get back to work...

        • yesterday

          We're pretty good about it, usually, in my organization. We're a school district, after all, so typically with public sector we earn more vacation than most private sector organizations provide (though perhaps only just on par with typical German companies), and, generally, there seems to be strong support for families and all the little things like having to leave early to pick up a kid from lifeguard camp (my boss's excuse today!), etc.

          But, even here, it can get tough. At this moment, one of my direct colleagues is on a handful of politically-sensitive projects, and she has to report to four different project managers, in addition to our regular team manager. Her parents in India are at a point in life where she feels a very urgent need to go see them before it's too late, especially her father who is not in good health, and she has been trying to get there since the spring, but the project managers keep saying "Oh, this is not the right time for the project," and she keeps having to cancel her travel plans. In order to take even a single day off, she has to get all four PMs to agree, and it just never happens (though they seem to have no problem taking days off themselves). Our regular boss is urging her to just go before the summer's out anyway; this is not the kind of regret she's going to want to live with.

          Managers need to lead by example. If the boss never takes vacation, it doesn't matter what they say: employees will see that and interpret it to mean that the unwritten rule is no vacations. If the boss sends emails at 9pm or 4am on a regular basis, or while "on vacation," again employees will see that as meaning they must be "always on," even while sitting on a beach somewhere (with a laptop or a phone).

      • yesterday

        Yes. I think because Americans get so little vacation to start with it becomes almost cultural that you don't feel entitled to take it all.

        Most firms start you out with 2 weeks vacation and 10-14 holidays (bank holidays) a year. Most places don't give you the third week until 5 years, a 4th week at either 10 or 15 years. Of course every firm is different and some have gotten better. But really, from the time you are out of University and you are 30-35 years old you only get 2 weeks to work with. Because most people change jobs at least once or twice in that time frame and then you get bumped back to 2 weeks. Some people negotiate an extra week when they get hired. And most union jobs have the vacation specified in the contract so its pretty hard and fast.

        By the time you get 4 and 5 weeks, you are in your mid 40's or 50's. By then, you are so use to having 2 or 3 weeks, it seems kind of wrong to take the extra weeks!!!! You feel like you are cutting class.

        But in the EU, most employees get 6 weeks vacation when they start. So its more engrained into the psyche of the work place.

        Plus, add in the fact that now, so many jobs are contract positions or temp positions. If you don't work, you simply don't get paid. Many people can't afford to take unpaid vacation.

        • yesterday

          I feel so spoiled with my public sector job, and then I remind myself that what I have, which is unusual in the US, is what basically everyone has in Europe...

          Hear hear on the contract/temp positions. They've always been around, but now they're more the norm rather than the exception, more prevalent than ever with the "Gig Economy," and the Orwellian aspect to the whole thing is how they're presented as an "advantage" to the employee, as if they put you more "in control" of your fate, and are somehow more hip and cool than a regular salaried position. Maybe that's true if you're a high-priced independent SAP consultant, but it's not so true if your "contract gig" is entering invoices or serving burgers or... wait for it... driving people around in your own vehicle, with no expenses covered and all risk assumed by you, and you depend upon that to put food on the table vs it being a side gig in your spare time.

  • 2 days ago

    I'm off to Florence tomorrow. Just me and my wife. We're ditching the grandson with his parents. No stress really. Yesterday I finished the last task on one project, this morning the last task on my other project.

    I'm glad we married and had kids young. (matt in "smug" mode) :-)

  • 2 days ago

    Quick update on my summer sofar : One of our boys is on a summer camp for 5 days (when older, they go even longer) with a local group much like Boyscouts. He's having the time of his life, and actually : the 'stress' (should I call it that? Maybe it's just "tension" "rows" "yelling" "call for attention") is down tremendously at home since we are only having one kid around! I hadn't realised how easy life 'can be' - not : always is - with one child ... Anybody can relate to that?

    We obviously wouldn't want this to be a permanent thing and it is not that the oldest is more difficult than the other ... but it's nice to have some peace and quiet around the house.

    I'm still at work, but looking forward to my vacation time when we go on some trips with a larger group of familymembers as well as just the four of us.

    Aside from that, summer is our time to do some chores in and around the house, so it's not all fun and games. However, doing those things at a more relaxed pace can be de-stressing as well!

    • 2 days ago

      I completely understand Nic Teunckens the situation with only one child :-)
      Thanks for sharing your plans. I wish you a lot of fun and good progress on the chores.

      Update from me: my children are one week with their grandparents. This is a crazy silent world I am living at the moment... not sure if I really enjoy it ;-) (altough my husband and I are enjoying evening dinner in restaurants instead of home)

  • 18 hours ago

    Even in Europe, it can be hard to take vacation. I had one guy who worked for me, who said that he'd just sit at home with his cat if he were on vacation.

    I think he ended up taking it when I did... And came into work anyway... ��

    Last night, beers on the shores of lake Geneva. Tonight, we're in Genoa, Italy. Having had a lovely seafood dinner, as Genoa is famous for. At a sushi restaurant...

    We paddled in the Mediterranean Sea. The drive over the alps was amazing. We took the pass instead of the tunnel. 2500m up.

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