In Defense of Downtime

camping downtimeI’ve written this post a thousand times. I originally wrote a little something back in March of 2014 but somehow never published. In looking back on how I felt about vacations then, I can see that not much has changed. I don’t know how to disconnect and take downtime.

After a few rough weeks (ok, months) at work adjusting to a new team and business, I finally freaked out. I made my husband promise to take me out in the woods and not let me do anything more challenging than assembling a s’more. That’s right – no work email, no Facebook, I didn’t even care if I got to shower. So we camped. We were gone for two days and the best part is I couldn’t have worked if I wanted to – no cell service.

The smack upside the head I so desperately needed from the universe came when I overheard my kids playing in the river. I was sitting in a camping chair, toes in the water while they goofed off a few feet away chasing minnows and skipping rocks. “I’m having so much fun” said one. “I know it’s the best weekend ever!” said the other. “The best part though, is mom is so happy. She’s like not even stressed, no stupid work to bother her, it’s awesome”.

I cried.

Recruiting 24/7: Overrated

cell phone campingYeah, I know. Recruiting is a 24/7 job, we have to be available when our candidates are, etc ad nauseam. This isn’t about whether or not you take a call after dinner – this is about letting your work consume your life. It’s not all bad – I get to work from home quite a bit and have always prided myself on being “there” for my kids.

I didn’t realize though, that just because I’m physically showing up it doesn’t mean I’m 100% with them. That’s what made this camping trip so important, and also why our next vacation matters so much. For two days I was able to just be in the moment. I didn’t take any pictures, yet I can close my eyes and see my kids splashing in the river like they were right in front of me. I can smell the smoke from the campfire, taste the hotdogs we roasted. I was there, and it was magnificent.

You’ll never believe what happened though, while I was out and unavailable. Not a damned thing.

Crazy right? Sure it was just a weekend, but the funny thing about actual vacations? We schedule them ahead of time. I’ll have one of my fabulous colleagues covering more me, and my calendar will be blocked. Nothing is important enough that I will need to stress about it during my week away. NOTHING.

Overworked, Unimpressed.

camping funnyRevisiting this post reminds me of a meeting I was in many years ago. I was a baby recruiter working my tail off trying to impress my boss. He used to regale us with stories about being in the Russian Army and training in Siberia, how they would go for weeks with no electricity among other challenges. He expected us all to work from sun up to sun down – vacation wasn’t in his vocabulary.

Our company was acquired by another firm, and we had a meeting with our new COO. Somehow the subject of vacations came up and Stuart kind of puffed up when talking about how many years it had been since he’d taken any time off. I’ll never forget the sad, slightly annoyed look on the COO’s face.

Very quietly, in front of the entire room he asked, “Stuart, do you think that impresses me?” Clearly, it didn’t. I think about that often, especially when beating myself up for taking a day or two to myself. Bob the COO was right – no one is impressed. Least of all the people who love you most.

So do me a favor, would you? Plan a trip with your family. Pick up a good book you’ve been dying to read. Take a day off and just go sit on the beach, leaving your phone at home. Not every sunset needs to be Instagrammed. My kids spent the entire 4-hour drive back home from camping raving about what a good time they had.

That’s right – we slept on the ground, ate hot dogs and canned stew covered over a campfire, and not a single electronic in sight. I asked them what was their favorite part – floating in the river? Making s’mores? Befriending the kid the next tent over who shared his root beer? Nope.

The BEST part, according to Kelsey and Josh was simply this – “No one was distracted, Mom. Yeah, we just got to all be together. No computer, no phones, we were just a family.”

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go plan another camping trip.

amy alaAbout the Author: Amy Miller is a staffing consultant & talent sourcer for Microsoft, where she supports the hardware division as a member of Microsoft’s in-house talent acquisition team.

Amy has over a decade of recruiting experience, starting her career in agency recruiting running a desk for companies like Spherion, Act One and the Lucas Group before making the move in-house, where she has held strategic talent roles for the State of Washington’s WorkSource employment program and Zones, an IT product and services hub.

Amy is also a featured blogger on and is a member of RecruitingBlogs’ Editorial Advisory Board.  Follow Amy on Twitter @AlaRecruiter or connect with her on LinkedIn.

Amy Miller

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