How important is your job? Or, conversely, how important are you to your job? Oftentimes, both of these statements are oversold.
When we are committed to our jobs, we assume others see and appreciate our dedication. They often do, and you may find yourself rewarded for your excellent work during an annual evaluation. That doesn’t, however, mean you are indispensable. If you find yourself thinking the place would collapse without you, it’s time to get real. Few places are solely reliant on any one individual. You only need to watch what happens when a CEO gets caught in a scandal. An “acting” is immediately appointed, and business goes on. The same thing happens when someone at your workplace gets ill or suddenly quits.
So why then do you feel the need to make work sacrifices, sometimes at great personal expense? Does it actually buy you more than being labeled the office or agency “savior?” For example, someone calls in sick and a replacement needs to be found. You were supposed to take your daughter to dinner and shopping, but that can be done on the weekend. She will be disappointed, but she knows your job is important. Why are you always the person to step up? Stop for a moment and think whether your colleagues are taking you for granted. Who would fill in if you didn’t?
Some life events you simply can’t postpone or get the moment back. Your parents’ twenty-fifth anniversary happens only once. Watching your daughter score a winning soccer goal may be a once in a lifetime achievement for her. High school and college graduations, the weddings of family members, and visiting a loved one who is quite ill can’t be rescheduled around work requirements. Milestones in your own life are important, too, and should be celebrated.
You might need to be more thoughtful and plan better. Start by integrating your life and work calendars. At the beginning of each year, look up special birthdays, anniversaries, school events, reunions, trips, and other significant dates. Include each on your calendar. If you need to protect vacation time, do it as early as possible. Then hold firm. The business trip to the coast sounds great, but you promised your dad you would help him with your mom’s 60th birthday party on those dates. Think of it this way, you will probably have other opportunities to visit California, but your mom will only turn 60 once.
Also, keep in mind that you don’t have to explain why you can’t do something. Simply saying you have a firm personal commitment that you can’t change should suffice.
In the span of a career, there are few truly memorable work events or moments, fewer still that you will ever regret missing. In life, however, there are many special moments with loved ones you will never be able to get back and will always regret missing. Make your choices accordingly.