I am so annoyed right now. My friend and I have been planning a long weekend at the beach—this weekend—for months. We booked a place to stay, talked about what we’re going to do while we’re there and were basically ready to go. Then, three days ago, she bailed, saying she “couldn’t get the days off work.” This has been in the works for months, and there’s no reason she shouldn’t have been able to get the days if she put in early enough. Now, my beach trip isn’t going to happen because she didn’t get it together. ARRRRRRRGH!!!!
You don’t actually ask for advice, B-squared, but I’m giving it away for free. Your trip is not cancelled. Hers is, but yours can and should still happen. First option: You find another friend to take her place. Since you already have accommodations booked and plans made, you’re offering someone a ready-made vacation. On a holiday weekend, no less. You’ve done all the work of making the arrangements; all someone else needs to do is step in and have fun. Ask anyone you think you might have fun with, even if it’s not someone you’d normally travel with. This is a great opportunity to get to know someone better or spend time with someone you otherwise wouldn’t.
Second option (and one of my favorites): Go on your own. I know, you hate the sound of that. Go anyway. It will be great. It will be different than you planned, but if you know that and adjust your expectations, you can have a lot of fun. You get to choose everything: the music you listen to in the car, the places you go, everywhere you eat, what time you go to the beach, etc. It’s a little intimidating at first, because you have only your own company. But, once you realize you don’t have anyone else to make the plans, you start thinking of things you didn’t realize you wanted to do.
Here’s what I’d suggest for traveling on your own:
•Make a few loose plans. Identify three or four things (besides going to the beach) that you want to do while you’re there. Use a travel guide if you need to. You want a few options to break up your beach time.
•Bring a book. Actually, bring five. And magazines.
•Readjust your ideas about what you can do alone. You can go out to eat, see a show, go shopping, tour a city, and anything else you can think of.
•If you want company, go out to eat at a busy restaurant and sit at the bar. Someone will talk to you.
A Digital Day Off
I often find myself checking and responding to emails after work hours. I don’t mind doing this occasionally, but sometimes I feel like I haven’t had a break when I return to work the next day. The emails aren’t usually so urgent that they couldn’t wait until the next morning, but sometimes I prefer to respond quickly instead of leaving the issue hanging. I don’t even spend that much time doing this, but, somehow, it does seem to eat up a big part of my night. I want to be a good employee, but I hate feeling like I can’t escape work.
I hear you, Tethered. And I applaud your impulse to clear emails out of your inbox as soon as you see them. But you need a real break. The problem is the way email and phones and computers allow work (and non-work, but non-essential social stuff) to reach you wherever you are. When it’s always possible to be doing work, that work is always skittering around the edges of your consciousness.
First things first: Recognize that, as long as you have a job and friends, your inbox will never be totally processed. Thinking that you’ll be free if you just respond to these last few emails is a seductive myth. There will always be another message or crisis or question.
This would be suffocating if we didn’t have the solution: You have to block out time during which you will not work on these tasks. This serves the triple purpose of guaranteeing you some free time for leisure and play, allowing you to be more productive during your work time (because there’s a foreseeable end to your work) and delaying your response to some things. This delay will cause some of the askees to solve the problem on their own, thus lightening your load.
To create this free space, I suggest a digital sabbatical. Try it one or two evenings this week. On those days, you do a last email/text/Facebook check at the end of your work day. If there’s anything that truly can’t wait until the next morning, respond to it. But that kind of genuinely urgent message almost never comes via email. (Dear Tethered, Help! My house is on fire!) So I expect there won’t be anything you have to deal with immediately. If it makes you feel better, you can respond to some emails with exactly one sentence saying that you’ve gotten the message and will respond at length in the morning.
Then, your digital sabbatical begins. I advise setting strict parameters and following them to the letter. If they sound Draconian at first, remember that you’re trying to open up non-digital space in your day. You have to do that fully in order to give your brain the freedom to think of the other things you’d like to do. My suggested sabbatical rules:
•Do not check email until you arrive at work the next morning. Do not check it on your phone.
•Do not use the Internet until you arrive at work the next morning. Sounds crazy strict, but once you’re online, you’re one click away from email. If you “need” to go online for something, see if you can get the information you want another way. Like the phone book. Or Flagpole.
•If an important work-related or Internet-ready idea hits you, write it down. You can deal with it online tomorrow.
Once your sabbatical is underway, think about how you want to enjoy it. Read, see a friend, cook dinner, take a nap, walk the dog, go out with friends, whatever. You can’t be fully involved in your relaxation, fun and leisure if work is an option. Take it off the table, so you can fully enjoy what you’re doing.
Coming to Athens
My wife and I are visiting Athens for the first time on July 5–6. I work for a university in Indiana, and we are interested in moving south (I can’t stand living in the North any longer). We will spend several hours touring the UGA campus, but we’re interested in learning more about your town. We would appreciate a short list of must-see attractions and your suggestions for the “most Athens” restaurants where we can dine.
Welcome! I’ve heard some nice things about the North, but I understand it’s cold as hell, and we’re glad to have you here. If you’re going to see Athens, be sure to leave some time for walking through downtown, which you’ll find right across the street from the Arch on UGA’s north Campus. You’ll find lots of bars, restaurants and shops on those blocks. Since you’ll be here on a Saturday morning, you can go by the farmers market at Bishop Park. If you have time, see a movie at Ciné. The Athens Welcome Center has a website and lots of options for guided, walking and audio tours of Athens. To combine food and touring, check out Georgia Food Tours, which is based in Athens and offers walking tours with stops at many eateries. I love restaurants and have too long a list for this space, but Flagpole’s website has a link to its Guide to Athens, which will give you lots of ideas. For a more tailored list, send me an email. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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