365 holiday days per year

Are you one of those people who lives from holiday to holiday? Or do you count down the holiday days that are left until you can go back to work? Increasing numbers of people who have found a job that really suits them don’t feel as if they are at work. I have noticed that, especially for one-man-bands, working and private lives are hugely intermingled. There are also those with a boss who have truly found a good balance. They don’t mind working a bit on a Sunday afternoon. But they’ll also go to the hairdressers on a weekday afternoon or spend some time with their kids. Of course there’s lots of networking (read: lunches or drinks!) and all those ‘business relations’ are or become friends. You could say, therefore, that either you’re always working or have the feeling you’re never working! Strangely enough you rarely hear about the number of hours they work from people who have managed to divide their time as they see fit. It’s a choice they’ve made and are comfortable with.

April’s Psychology Magazine mentions 12 factors that determine whether someone’s happy with their job. A number of factors apply mainly to working for a boss, but you can also apply most of them if you’re a one-man-band. Instead of ‘boss’, you could read client, for example. You can test yourself by assigning each factor a grade. The higher the grade, the happier you are with that point:

  1. Do you have sufficient influence on the content of your working day?
  2. Do you use your strengths in your job?
  3. Is your work ‘averagely difficult’ so that you have enough of a challenge but are not constantly stressed?
  4. Is there enough variation, but not so much it stresses you?
  5. Do you know what is expected of you?
  6. Do you have enough social contact at work?
  7. Do you have a good salary/income?
  8. Do you have a safe and pleasant working environment?
  9. Is your work appreciated by yourself and others?
  10. Do you have a pleasant relationship with your boss?
  11. Do you have good future prospects?
  12. Are staff and others treated fairly?

One-man-band or wage slave – I notice that flexibility and the ability to define your own time are much-mentioned factors for happiness. This is also reflected in recent research by Nyenrode and the Persgroep Banen, in which a good balance between work and the private sphere and the option of dividing your own time are mentioned as the most important drivers when choosing a job. Next are the drivers ‘challenge and development’ and ‘freedom and autonomy’. Of course everyone has to have his or her own ‘playing scope’. For some freedom is a happiness factor, for others it makes them feel adrift.

Huub van Zwieten from Talentfirst.nl wrote the book ’365 days of holiday per year’, in which he explains this phenomenon. ‘If you’re doing work you really enjoy it no longer feels like work. You have to discover your own strengths and happiness factors.’ Of course, the self-appointed ‘dream job guru’ turns his theory into practice by only organizing fun events, writing books and inspiring people. I recently had a meeting with him on his boat as we traversed the Amsterdam canals. No less productive, and certainly more fun than a boring meeting room!

I am personally on a sailing trip through the Caribbean at the moment. The ultimate holiday, or merely a change in working environment? While sailing I am writing three new books, translating my book ‘What’s your excuse?’ into English and promoting it in the US, setting up a coaching club for entrepreneurs, giving long-distance seminars to people who want to chase their dreams and, of course, gathering new inspiration. I just have to convince the tax authorities that I am really working, here in my bikini on the boat… Perhaps I can even declare my travel expenses? Will have to ask my accountant.

Unfortunately it’s tricky creating a good working environment on a boat. Plenty of inspiration (believe me!), but translating it into action is not easy. Especially when I need the internet. We first have to enter a port, have Wi-Fi reception, or mess around in an internet café with the ubiquitous slow connection. It all makes me painfully aware that I am at work, while this is normally so seamless. And this is the issue. Should I switch of my ‘inspiration button’? Or make more of an effort to spend more time on the www? In both cases I feel a little guilty. Don’t get me wrong: the sailing is superb and island hopping is a unique experience! But strangely enough I very occasionally find myself counting the days until I can ‘get back to work normally’…

Published in VCV Magazine, July 2010

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