A Good Vacation

I just read an interesting post by Chris Pratley on the History of the Project Manager position at Microsoft. He ended it with this bit that resonated with me:

I’m not sure where this saying came from originally, but one way to describe PMs is that they not only “pick up and run with the ball, they go find the ball”. That really defines the difference between “knowing what to do and doing it”, and “not knowing what to do, but using your own wits to decide what to do, then doing it”. That means as a PM you are constantly strategizing and rethinking what is going on to find out if there is something you are missing, or the team is missing. You’re also constantly deciding what is important to do, and whether action needs to be taken. The number of such decisions is staggering. I might make 50 a day, sometimes more than 100 or even 200. Most of the time there is not nearly enough hard data to say for certain what to do, and in any case almost all these decisions could never have hard data anyway – you need to apply concentration and clear thinking.

Some years ago I realized that as a PM, my definition of vacation was not just going somewhere to have fun (work is quite fun most of the time). Vacation means getting to an environment where no decisions have to be made. I used to drive my friends nuts, since I would go visit them, and they’d say “what do you want to do?”, or “where do you want to go?”, and I would simply say “you decide”.

Some times it’s hard to for everyone to realize that a vacation can be simply not doing what you have to do normally. For my wife, it’s often time away from the house and kids. For me it’s time to think and be home. What ever it may be, it sure is important to find time to relax and really re-create.

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