What’s one topic that can be overlooked as an important matter to career success? Leisure! The value of leisure is very high, and that is why people look so fondly toward the weekend. But realize, too, that weekends alone are not usually enough. One recent study published in Current Psychiatry Reports chronicles the great prevalence of depressive disorders among people in the workplace, which the articles authors argue can be mitigated in various ways. Yet too often people see that only large blocks of time off from work is what is needed to recharge and revitalize.
To be sure, any number days off from work does wonders for the mind, heart, and soul. Let us not forget about integrating a bit of leisure during the course of a busy day. Even a study published this-past January in Annals of Internal Medicine showed that sitting long hours undermines health and shortens life. During any day at work you need to relax and release your mind and body from the stresses you have endured, no matter how great or small the stresses have been. Short, frequent breaks that divert your attention to other things, especially restful things, give your mind and body the opportunity to refresh.
Truly, how often have you gotten up to get a drink or go to the washroom or take a short walk and been struck by a new idea? It has very probably been a lot more often than you may want or are able to remember. The simple change in focus has released your mind to think differently and freely and, thereby, released a kind of creativity you needed.
As the old saying goes, “Do what you love. Love what you do.” At the same time we must seek a favorable balance between our professional and our personal lives, a concept often referred to work-life balance. For public relations professionals, a healthy work-life balance is possible and essential, as practitioners combine both “proactive cognitive and passive coping” approaches that work for them.
Highly effective people in their lives and careers have certain common habits, and Steven Covey is well known for explaining those eight habits: be proactive, begin with the end in mind, put first things first, think win/win, seek first to understand then to be understood, synergize, sharpen the saw, and find your voice and inspire others to find theirs.
Of the eight habits, sharpening the saw is especially potent and important to the journey down your career-life path, especially if it’s toward a position of leadership and management in public relations. You need to continuously improve yourself in ways that matter, and that includes taking time to recharge, revitalize, and renew yourself in mind, body, and spirit.
Yes, matters of work-life balance are included, but so are matters of education, skills, and motivation to be and to do the best you can plus to be and to do better than you ever have. The better you become as a person and as a professional, the more you help make public relations the valuable and valued organizational function that can truly inspire cooperation between organizations and their publics.
Peter M. Smudde, Ph.D., APR, is an Associate Professor at Illinois State University.