It has been a tough year. No matter what kind of success we have had (or not had) as salespeople, work has been harder and the stress level has been off the charts. Our personal and professional lives have been upturned, and the changes and unknowns have given us more to simultaneously deal with than ever. We need to make sure we are taking some time to take care of ourselves and respond to what comes next: undoubtedly, more change—good change, but energy-requiring nonetheless.
I have found it tougher than ever before to burn through my vacation days (weeks). As sales are not at satisfactory levels, I have found myself feeling guilty about not working and not being there when the opportunities do present themselves. I have been glued to my desk and office chair for sometimes-irrational reasons and ridiculous hours and days for the past 16 months. We are all pinch-hitting with reduced staffing (whether intentional or not). The extra work has helped fill in the voids, but certainly has led to a completely new batch of stresses as we learn new tasks and try to keep up with our additional responsibilities.
I have mandated routine physical exercise for myself. Cycling has been my old “new” thing that provides almost daily stress relief at the end of the workday. Apparently, based on the difficulty I had in locating a bike to purchase last fall, I am not alone in finding road biking a good solution. Longer destination rides on the weekend are even more relaxing—again, even further away from my desk and office. The effects of endorphins, sunshine and solace have been a rescue for me.
I spent the first six months of the pandemic in more of a rut and thankfully pushed myself to move again—running was my more casual go-to before, which did the trick (and a number on my knees). I have also made what is a bolder move for me to share highlights of my longer outings on social media and by sending pics to colleagues. It really is OK to let your clients and associates know you are taking time to take care of your physical and mental health. It just puts you in a better position to take care of them. I hope that they will do the same.
I have been a “road warrior” for over 20 years, traveling roughly 35 weeks a year nationally. My travel schedule has been reduced to just a few weeks this year, as national and larger regional events have been sparse, and sales calls to my customers are limited based on remote working and COVID protocols at various offices. One can assume correctly that this change has also been stressful for me and my family (who is this person anyway?).
While I have always tried to make the most of my robust travel schedule—including seeing unique places and finding great local restaurants—I recently decided to amp up one of my trips to celebrate an in-person trade show and traveling again. The Specialty Advertising Show of California (SAAC) Expo was held in Anaheim in early August. I took a few days of vacation and with the family headed to Santa Barbara and San Diego before the show. We were all sick of being homebound and appreciated the vacation more than ever, visiting some familiar stops but also trying new experiences and places.
Most significantly, we took a friend’s invite to come sailing the San Diego Bay the day before the show opened. The opportunity was very new for all of us. As Midwesterners, we are not exactly water or sea lovers and have never been sailing. Our “captain” arranged for us to rent a nice-sized sailboat for the day. It was not until the “briefing dinner” the night before that we realized I was actually going to be helping crew the boat.
While I did not exactly gain my sea legs or perform to standards, I did learn a lot about sailing, the rules of the water, and how not to try to eat a messy lunch as we raced and worked across the bay. It was not only fun, but also certainly a confidence-building experience—learning and performing new tasks in unfamiliar and uncomfortable territory.
I shared some of the experience with colleagues the next day. The responses from my peers were similar to when I have shared less exciting travel experiences in the past. “How did you arrange that?” “Where did you get that idea?” “How did you find someone to captain the boat?”
It was interesting to see the disbelief and surprise. This really was not an over-the-top excursion or expense. My wish for all of my colleagues is that they find the time to take care of themselves physically and emotionally. Challenge yourself to take in new places, people and experiences, even just for a day. There are great things ahead and we need to be healthy to accomplish, enjoy and experience all of it.
Mark Jenkins, managing director of Pioneer Balloon Co., has been involved in the promotional products industry for more than three decades. He has led the national sales and marketing efforts of three different suppliers. Jenkins is a road warrior, traveling nationally an average of 36 weeks per year, visiting distributors and participating in trade shows, sales meetings and industry events. A former PPAI board member and chair, he has been active in volunteering, bringing his industry knowledge, perspective and leadership to the table. Visit his website here.