There’s always something to howl about

Time off for good behavior

My husband Jamie took off work for two solid weeks over the holiday, but even then, today he shared a rather startling revelation with me: He still lost 60 hours of vacation time in 2010. I was in the middle of creating a weekly schedule for myself in order to practice time blocking in 2011, and I had asked him about vacations, suggesting we schedule time off together- early and often. We’ve got kids in college and young critters at home, so a tight budget and an undisciplined puppy mean we won’t be taking any two week trips to Paris but still, we could easily schedule a morning off on that day, an overnight trip to Indy or Columbus this day, a day trip to watch the ponies run in Kentucky on yet another day. It would be fun just to try to use up 60 hours and not really go anywhere at all.

We had 7 major family celebrations since Thanksgiving. Add a handful of office parties and friends gathering together, and dammit I’m looking forward to Monday. Our obligations to other people pushed hard into our relaxation time this holiday and we all have a bit of holiday fatigue which is really unfair to those people we love, but also it is not a healthy way to begin the trek through the long winter months.

So as I was working out a weekly schedule for real estate related tasks, it occurred to me that I have no option but to combat fatigue of any sort by scheduling some goof off time. The whole reason for creating a schedule is to help me to meet goals and some of my goals are personal. I want to paint again. I want to spend time with my husband and my friends, nurturing some relationships that have gotten a bit weedy lately. I want to poke around some boutiques that I pass by on a regular basis and try out some new coffee shops.  In other words, I want guilt-free time that is mine alone to decide how to use and likely the only way to do that is, ironically, to schedule it into my calendar. Surely I’m not the only one who struggles with this, although today it occurred to me that I probably just need to get over myself. Geez. The world turns without me- so go ahead Lussier, take a day off.

I’m not talking about time for church or the gym or to coach the kid’s soccer team, those seem to be obligatory to most of us. I’m talking about time set aside for yourself for nothing in particular. I know you pros who have been in real estate for years can probably attest to benefits of scheduling time off and vacation time. I was hoping you would share some of the things you do- the big and small things- that help you recharge your batteries on a regular basis. Do you only return calls during certain hours? Do you schedule a weekly date night? I’m wondering, how do you maintain your balance?


19 Comments so far

  1. Jeff Brown January 2nd, 2011 9:56 am

    It used to be umpiring, but real life made that almost impossible. I love to head up the 5 a half hour to have lunch with my 81 year old fighter pilot uncle. He’s one of the wisest people I know personally, and a father figure as well.

    Think this year I’m gonna try learning some new/old dance skills. It gets me out in the world, which I definitely need to do more of. Yesterday I walked around the lake then had breakfast, both with my daughter. It’s a mini-vacation for the spirit.

    I also plan to make use of the SUV I acquired last spring for a return to overnight/weekend camping/hiking jaunts. Then there’ll be the quick, I need a sanity break jailbreaks to various 1-2 day trips to…who knows where.

    There’ll be more, but I can guarantee you 2011 will have more ‘vacation’ time by at least an order of magnitude than did 2010, which had roughly 3-4 days.

    Happy New Year!

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  3. John Herrigel January 3rd, 2011 6:09 am

    I may not be a mega agent here in Maine, but I find myself quickly maxed out every week and the best system I have found to keep organized/free time for myself is a simple weekly block schedule I created in excel that I print out each week and hand fill in with a pencil! I would be happy to send it to anybody if they want to reach out anytime. Happy New Year!

  4. Dan Connolly January 3rd, 2011 11:55 am

    Generally I do everything I can not to schedule appointments in the morning. Since I am frequently on call 7 days a week, and do a fair amount of showing after normal working hours, I keep the mornings for myself. I try to keep my actual working hours in the 40-45 hr per week range. I will answer the phone and tell people that I will call them later, unless there is some reason why that won’t work.

    Also I rarely will take calls after about 7 or so. I think most people who call then are really just expecting to leave a message anyway and are shocked if you answer. Also I think it sends a message of desperation that I don’t want to imply.

    We take regular vacations, usually 3-4 days every couple of months. If there is a family event or something , important I just plan it like I would a listing or showing appointment.

  5. Teri Lussier January 3rd, 2011 12:20 pm


    I love it. Good ideas all- especially dance classes- Whee! 😀

  6. Teri Lussier January 3rd, 2011 12:32 pm


    I just created a weekly schedule with tasks time-blocked. I have a great mind for brain-storming because it can shift gears so quickly. One of the things I’ve learned in late 2010 is that it’s more productive for me to quit worrying about staying on task, and instead to focus on quickly getting back to task. My brain will wander and become distracted and that’s not a bad thing in and of itself. It’s only a problem if I don’t recognize when that’s happened, or can’t refocus. So with my time-blocking, I’ve set it up with some built-in wiggle room, and knowing that things happen. It’s not that things happen, it’s how quickly and smoothly I can get back. For me, that’s where the productivity is.

    Having said all that, I’d be curious what your schedule looks like. I’d like to know what you are blocking off time to accomplish.

  7. Teri Lussier January 3rd, 2011 12:38 pm


    >I will answer the phone and tell people that I will call them later, unless there is some reason why that won’t work.

    That’s a really great idea. So simple, but accomplishes a lot.

    >Also I rarely will take calls after about 7 or so.

    Me too. My cell is set to auto-off at 8:30 pm. Although I often end up turning it back on to text my kids. I do think you are right about most people not expecting to do business after 8.

  8. Meg Hurtado January 3rd, 2011 4:32 pm

    I think what you’re talking about is something that we’re all struggling with, and it’s one of the most important things to conquer. I know that I’m personally resolving to get my “life” back in 2011 – even if it means sleeping 4-6 hours a night. Because those things that make you light up inside – umpiring, or yoga, or painting – don’t pay the bills, it’s easy to push them aside. But they’re absolutely essential, as anyone who loses sight of them knows.

    I think in the end this will be one of the most positive lessons the Great Recession teaches us all – the difference between quantity and quality, and the value of time over the value of money. Let’s hope so, anyway.

  9. Jim Klein January 3rd, 2011 9:45 pm

    > …the value of time over the value of money.

    Fascinating topic for me. I worked record-setting hours most of my life, but never really minded that part too much. Naturally my family might say it was a stupid approach, but it was also in the manner that allowed me to be closest to them in the way I chose, or at least in the style and surroundings I chose for them. In any event, I never imagined it to be anything except that which I thought to be of maximum value.

    I guess that’s one of the advantages of Simpledom—I can only discern value, period. Really, I can’t imagine what else anyone supposes there could be, which is why I’m such a fan of Greg’s “ontological” approach. I never did fully understand the dichotomy between “work” and “life.”

    Of course, I’ve also said that one of the advantages of poverty is that it leaves so few options, so maybe I’m not the guy to ask!

  10. Greg Swann January 4th, 2011 7:51 am

    > I never did fully understand the dichotomy between “work” and “life.”

    I was talking with Cathleen about this on New Year’s Day. We were inaugurating the New Year properly — and one of the advantages of being married to me is that my best-beloved gets to talk about philosophy while we are making love — and I remarked that I consider everything I do working, and I consider everything I do having fun. Love-making itself is the most enthralling and most eloquent possible expression of the commitment to living the fully-human life, but I see everything I do as being an expression of that commitment — or I don’t do it. I understand what Teri is saying, and I think it is an admirable acknowledgement of the life of a Realtor. But I expect my take is much closer to Jim’s in the way I actually live.

  11. Teri Lussier January 4th, 2011 4:45 am

    >I can only discern value, period. Really, I can’t imagine what else anyone supposes there could be,

    I agree with this. Productivity has value and it’s not always directly related to money. I’m trying to carve out time for those things that bring me happiness/value, but do not directly produce income.

    >I think in the end this will be one of the most positive lessons the Great Recession teaches us all

    >I’ve also said that one of the advantages of poverty is that it leaves so few options

    The difference between poverty and Poverty Chic is the option. 😉

  12. Jim Klein January 4th, 2011 11:39 am

    Oh yeah, Teri’s got it right IMO. I forgot to acknowledge that I thought it was a terrific post.

    I think maybe the distinction is this. In all social interaction, and doubly so in any sort of business context, the values of the other party are commanding of our actions. After all, this is the whole point of the Bloodhound approach in RE, and the essence of all true businesses.

    But when it comes to play, the other guy’s values don’t have such a role. “Play” in this usage means accomodating our own values exclusively…not necessarily in the absence of others, but in a way that their values are irrelevant to what we do. Not wholly irrelevant, mind you, since many fun activities require others to be present. But irrelevant in the manner that they don’t have an influence on what we ourselves do…we have fun by doing what we enjoy and the degree to which (or even whether) others enjoy the same thing, really doesn’t matter. Obviously, nobody could run a serious business in this manner.

    This must explain why in the current environment of insanity, I really haven’t felt much like running any sort of serious business!

  13. Teri Lussier January 4th, 2011 2:17 pm

    >In all social interaction, and doubly so in any sort of business context, the values of the other party are commanding of our actions.

    >“Play” in this usage means accomodating our own values exclusively…

    There it is, exactly. Thanks Jim.

  14. Jeff Brown January 4th, 2011 2:24 pm

    Is play that complicated of a concept? Really? Geez

  15. Teri Lussier January 4th, 2011 2:48 pm

    Break a leg, Bawld Guy! 😀

  16. Don Reedy January 4th, 2011 4:17 pm


    I’ve been off the grid, doing almost the same thing as you during the holidays. I was exhausted. So this first day back reading your post calmed me quite a bit since it’s an issue I, too, am dealing with.

    Greg and Jim and Jeff all added to my enjoyment, and then Bawd Guy punctuated with his question about “play.”

    Oh my how I love you guys. And for the record, I consider most of the time I spend here with you, in your heads and in your hearts, as some of the best play time known to mankind; a place where learning is fun, the games are always a contact sport, and the reflections post post, post play, or in Greg’s case post coitus, are always worth the investment in time.

  17. Greg Swann January 4th, 2011 10:26 pm

    > or in Greg’s case post coitus

    Not post. During. It’s actually quite romantic — to me, at least — to explore the theory of Splendor while we are living it in practice. I wrote about that in The Unfallen, a long time ago. That book was my map to Cathleen, so it’s fun for me to actually live it — to love someone who is delighted to let me be who I am even in what might seem to other people to be the oddest of circumstances.

    I wrote a novella over the holidays, a Christmas book. Here’ s a piece of it, Uncle Willie talking to a geeky teenage boy:

    “Well, here’s a mystery. If everyone is always spewing bullshit, how do you know what’s really true? How do you know what isn’t bullshit?”

    To this he said nothing. We walked slowly along the canal, with Naso’s snuffling as the only sound. The sky was overcast, rare for Phoenix, and the air was cold and moist.

    Finally, I said, “Okay, try this. Pro or con: Rich people should pay more taxes and poor people should get more benefits.”

    Chance looked at me sideways. “Pro?”

    “Why ask me? Don’t you know one way or another?”

    “It’s what they’re always saying at school. Everywhere, I guess.”

    “But I thought all adults were full of shit. Why would you repeat what they say?”

    “Well,” he said, marshaling his defenses, “why should some people have all the money and other people have none?” Not quite huffy, but huffiness was right next door.

    “Hmm… You have two functioning kidneys, where some people have to get dialysis every day or they will die. What right do you have to hoard your kidneys?”

    “That’s not the same thing!”

    “Why not?”

    “Because it’s not!”

    “I’m not seeing the difference. If the government can take your money, why can’t it take your kidneys? Why can’t it take your life? For all of me, if we’re going to have socialism, I think we should have socialized pussy.”


    “Sure,” I said. “Why not? There are guys at your high school who get laid whenever they want. Why should they get all that ass when you’re stuck spanking the monkey?”

    I could see the delight in his face as his mind raced over all the possibilities. “Of course,” I went on, “turnabout is foreplay, as it were. There are quite a few guys in this town who would love to have free, socialized access to your ass. There are some ugly old crones down at the laundromat who might enjoy your compulsory attention, too.”

    “You’re making me sick!”

    “I’m trying to make you think. Tell me what I’m getting wrong. Your money is your time, your thought and your labor. If the government can steal your time — if it can force you to work for free — why can’t it force you to have sex with strangers, too?”

    To this Chance said nothing — a good sign, actually.

    “Here’s an even better idea. How about let’s socialize orgasms?”

    He laughed out loud at that idea.

    “I’m totally serious,” I went on. “An orgasm is the ultimate in human pleasure. How can it be fair that some people should have to live without orgasms? I think we should pool all the orgasms in American, then dole them out on the basis of need. If you think about those old crones at the laundry, it’s hard to imagine people more in need of free orgasms.”

    He was still laughing. “You couldn’t do that!”

    “Why not?”

    “Because–” he began, trying to talk around his chortling. “Because an orgasm can’t be shared!”

    There is a floodway next to the canal, a vast concrete trench, like an uncovered tunnel. When a sound hits the walls just right, it can echo for miles in both directions. On Christmas Eve, all of North Central Phoenix learned that an orgasm can’t be shared.

    “Well, then, how about new ideas? Let’s tax geniuses for eighty percent of their new ideas, then let dumb people have some new ideas, once in a while. That’s only fair, isn’t it.”

    Chance said nothing, but I just kept at it: “What about pride? Think about it. You hammer away for days at a video game, and at last you get to the last boss in the game. Even then, it’s days of effort to figure out how to win. Finally you defeat the bastard, and there you are, in the circle of champions. That feels pretty good doesn’t it?”

    “Yeah,” he allowed. “It does.”

    “I think we should socialize that feeling.”


    “Sure, why not? That’s what socialism is really all about. Some people work hard and think hard and play hard, and they feel pretty good about themselves. Other people don’t do shit — and they feel like shit most of the time. Why should some people get to feel happy, just because they’ve earned it? Why should other people be miserable, just because they deserve to be? How is that fair?”

    No response, but I could practically hear the gears grinding in his head. I said, “Here’s a better question: Why do you parrot this nonsense, when it’s such obvious bullshit? You’re one-hundred percent right about adults — about people in general. Almost everything they say is horseshit in one way or another, concocted to cheat you out of something that’s rightfully yours. They don’t want rich peoples’ money, they want your soul. They don’t want to steal your kidneys, they just want to make you feel guilt and shame for being alive. Here’s what they really want: They can’t steal your mind or your pride or your orgasms or the simple delight you take in just being alive. But they can get you to take all of those things away yourself. All they actually want is for you to hate your life just as much as they hate theirs. That is what socialism is for.”

    We walked along in silence for a long time. Finally Chance said, “If I can’t trust them, why should I trust you?”

    “You shouldn’t. Trust yourself.”

  18. Teri Lussier January 4th, 2011 7:35 pm

    Happy New Year, Don!

  19. Teri Lussier January 5th, 2011 6:53 am

    Well. Um. I would say Happy New Year to the Love Shack at 314 East El Caminito Dr, but that appears to be a given. 🙂

    I am going to borrow the examples from the story, though. Very well said. Having some of those same conversations in our own household.