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An Argument for Taking a Sick Day

You don’t have a work life and a non-work life — it’s just a life


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I don’t often do “sick” days, but today is one.

I struggled through facilitating a six-hour client meeting yesterday, and the adrenaline kept me going (that and six cups of coffee). But I only had a few nonessential meetings today so was able to move them.

I’ll sleep in, I thought, and see if I can shake this. As I laid in bed at 5:30 a.m. staring at the ceiling, I realized I’m not good at sleeping in. And I felt like heck anyway, so what’s the point?

Reading seemed like a good option. However, whatever ailed me wouldn’t allow me to sleep hard but made me nod off after a page or two. Realizing that I didn’t have the concentration to do any “mental tasks,” I decided to repair the porch screen. I knew it was broken the day I saw my 2-year-old grandson crawling through it. After two trips to the hardware store and a few hours in the sun, I fixed it. But that’s not my real work. I’m fond of the concept of “comparative advantage” — doing what you do best and hiring someone to do what they do best for the rest.

So, I’m back to trying to “do nothing,” and I’m damn poor at it (OK, technically I was doing nothing before I starting writing this!). I don’t feel too bad about that, but it seems like sometimes you should do nothing: Contemplate life; refuse chores; order pizza.

I frequently block out days to learn and find ways to enhance my understanding of business and people. Those are fun days. I also block out numerous days to fly-fish and ski. Hell, I’m self-employed, and that’s one of the advantages.

One conversation I have with most executives I coach involves how they spend their time. Very few feel like they have it just right. I tell them it’s a good thing that they’re struggling. Perhaps they’re too influenced by books with titles such as “The 4-Hour Work Week.” Some of them have immense pressure from home to be a better spouse while they have enormous burdens at work. Years ago, I was that guy (though the pressure may have been self-imposed). The last chapter of my book “Never Kick a Cow Chip on a Hot Day: Real Lessons for CEOs and Those Who Want to Be” is titled “Balancing for Big Shots.” I’ve heard it’s helpful, but guess what? There’s no magic pill.

I was too bunched to take unstructured days in my previous executive life and virtually never took “sick” days. I’m reformed, so I do my best to help my coaching clients understand that they don’t have a work life and a non-work life — it’s just a life. Why wait until you’re 65 to have fun? How much good do you do at the office when you’re an ass because you need a day off?

Get sick and fix a screen door! You might be better for it tomorrow. If you figure out how to sleep in, let me know.

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Todd Ordal

Todd Ordal is president of Applied Strategy®. Todd helps CEOs achieve better financial results, become more effective leaders and sleep easier at night. He is a former CEO and has led teams as large as 7,000. Todd is the author of Never Kick a Cow Chip On A Hot Day: Real Lessons for Real CEOs and Those Who Want To Be (Morgan James Publishing, 2016). Connect with Todd on LinkedIn, Twitter, call 303-527-0417 or email todd@toddordal.com.

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