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CIO Unplugged 6/19/13

June 19, 2013 Ed Marx 10 Comments

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are mine personally and are not necessarily representative of current or former employers.

Bank Life, Not Vacation Days

If your organization is like mine, you are fairly data driven. We have Key Performance Indicators (KPI) to track business and clinical metrics that help ensure we’re headed down the right path. Our published dashboards let employees and the public know how we are doing in fulfilling our vision and mission. We use the data, drill down as needed, make adjustments, refine processes, improve, and continue forward. There is a reason why data-driven organizations outperform those that aren’t.

You’ve seen me draw these sorts of analogies before. If it works so well in business, why don’t we apply the principles to what matters most? LIFE. So I pondered this . . .

What would the KPIs be for my life? One that jumps to mind is the balance on my Paid Time Off (PTO/Vacation). A high balance warns of danger while a low balance indicates just that — balance.

Confession time. I used to pride myself on statements like, “I am too busy to take PTO” or “My role does not allow me to take much time off.” Poppycock!

When I switched jobs, I enjoyed cashing in the 600-hour balances I maintained. But at what cost? My family and my well-being!

Never again.

Listen to me. I am not waiting until retirement nirvana to spend time with those I love. I may not make it there. And if I do, my “loved ones” may no longer recognize me.

This year, I started taking more time off with the goal of maintaining a PTO balance below 100 hours. Taking time off does not necessarily mean spending money and traveling to Timbuktu. It can mean just staying at home or volunteering at a local service organization. There are numerous organizations that need us. (The staying-home part and the volunteering are my new works in progress. Keep me accountable, and I’ll keep you posted.)

The benefits to routinely spending your hard-earned PTO are numerous. First and foremost is your personal well-being. Ample evidence shows a direct correlation between well-being and happiness. You must take care of yourself so you can help take care of others. When you do this, your family wins, society wins.

Gallup research shows that by increasing well-being, you also increase productivity. The more you rest, the more restored you become, the more effective you are at work. We have all seen the ragged co-worker who never takes PTO, working 60 hours per week. In most cases, when productivity and well-being is sapped, a person becomes impotent.

Been there, done that. Not going back.

Bringing it squarely back to work, think of the benefit to your team. Counterintuitive perhaps? When you’re gone, a couple of things happen. One, they get a much needed break from you. True that! Everyone needs a break from their manager now and again. Nobody is that good, or indispensable.

Two, it demonstrates trust in a way words cannot. I recently took PTO, and my staff had to lead and deal with two major events without me. You know what? They did not miss me. In fact, one could argue they did better because I wasn’t there!

Admittedly, I’m still struggling to unplug once I am off. I have a great team at the office and my worries are few, but I am struggling to break the addiction. That may drive another KPI.

Take your PTO. You earned it. I don’t give a flip what your role is or what projects are coming up. You are not that important. Certainly not more important than what your family needs. You. You in the moment. You rested. You there.

Get your rear out of the office.

Ed Marx is a CIO currently working for a large integrated health system. Ed encourages your interaction through this blog. Add a comment by clicking the link at the bottom of this post. You can also connect with him directly through his profile pages on social networking sites LinkedIn and Facebook and you can follow him via Twitter — user name marxists.

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Currently there are "10 comments" on this Article:

  1. Ed, I love reading your insights! And this is so true…I’m doing the same my self. Yes, I know there are a few months of the year that will be insane but the rest of the year balance is the watchword. And I’m better for it. Now if we could just get my husband’s schedule and mine to match LOL

  2. Hi Ed,

    Great advice for all of us that work far too many hours and wear our PTO balances as a badge of honor! “Nobody ever laid on their death bed and wished they had spent more time at work.” Not sure who to attribute this quote to but it provides us something to think about … I’m thinking about my next vacation. Thanks for all your inspiration!

  3. Ed Marx as a CIO and leader in the industry continues to prove that leadership is not only driving the technologies but those that are enabled by them. Kudos to Ed Marx who understands the lessons and meaning of true leadership.

  4. Ed,

    Oh so true. I actually took a two month sabbatical this year (March and April). Best thing I ever did. Everyone needs time to refocus and re-energize. And you are right, none of us are so important that our organizations can’t live without us. Great blog post. Keep up the good work (but don’t forget to use up that PTO).

    Bill Crounse, MD

  5. howdy dr Marx

    i think you’d live Clayton Christensen’s new book, “How will you measure your life?”

    This is the guy that did “Innovator’s Dilemma/Solution/Prescription.” He’s my favorite academic

  6. Once again, Ed nails it. For too many years I functioned on zero to 3 hours of sleep, never took PTO, lost touch with my family/friends and experienced the loss of a few love interests due to my “driven” behavior. I finally figured it out at age 49 when I was sent by ambulance to the ED with chest pains and found myself in the cardiac unit for a few days. I recently heard a guest speaker declare that true equilibrium in the realm of “life balance” is an impossible goal. Work plus commute already consumes 9 – 14 hours of the twenty-four hour day. The best we can do is allocate the remaining time to what’s truly important in our lives (including rest and sleep). Since we’re already out of balance – and work is winning – that PTO is looking better and better, isn’t it?

  7. This is spot on. In Iacocca’s first book, he talked about the leader that never took time off because his job was “too important”. Iacocca’s view was exactly what you stated… the time off provides balance and he did not trust a leader that could not manage to take much needed time off and run his/her part of the business. I keep an eye on our team’s vacation use and there have been times where I have insisted that people use it. Thanks for shedding light on this problem, Ed.

  8. Sure would be nice if we had any paid time off guaranteed by law in the US. I guess that’s just too much to ask for. I’ll head back to steerage class now.

  9. Ed – one of the most important priorities for a leader to do is to ensure the continuity of the organization. If a leader is involved in everything all of the time, where is the opportunity for the staff to grow, stretch and develop? This is applicable no matter your level or team size. My wife and I took a long international trip earlier this year in the middle of big projects we were both leading. One of the things I learned from her is that she did not take back some of the responsibility that she had delegated once she had returned. Now several people on her team have more responsibility, more visibility and more development opportunities. And now she has more time to focus on her team and customers!

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