Punching the Clock

Recently, I got a job working at Beaver Creek Resort a couple of mornings a week for fun. This was kind of a big step for me, as I haven’t had a boss for over two years (if you don’t count my dogs) and before that, I was a senior level attorney at a large company for many, many years. Having such a position isn’t like having a job. It is a life. It is all-consuming. At least it was for me.

During those years, I didn’t take a vacation without my laptop and Blackberry. I once went from the bottom of the Grand Canyon to New York City in under 12 hours to get to a board meeting. I knew how to get out of the Grand Canyon by plane (you have to take a sight-seeing expedition, which is sort of fun), because I had been required to leave a vacation at the Grand Canyon several years earlier for an off-site “team building” meeting.   This was the norm. An executive vice-president at that same company once confided that she would sneak into the bathroom to check her Blackberry when she went on a family vacation, because she didn’t want her son’s memories to consist exclusively of her working. Admittedly, some people seem better equipped to separate their personal life from their professional life. But I certainly observed many who, like me and my colleague, were struggling mightily with the elusive work-life balance concept.

When I started my job at Beaver Creek a couple of weeks ago, I was told to punch in and out on a time clock. It had been 25 years since I had punched a clock, back when I worked at a Ponderosa Steak House in college. I loathed that job and lasted barely a month. What a surprise, then, to discover that punching the time clock is my favorite part of the new job. When I punch in, I’m on the job. I’m there to do what needs doing. But when I punch out, I’m gone. I don’t think about work. I don’t check my email every 60 seconds. I don’t call in, just to make sure things are going ok.   I’m gone.

I find that I’m not alone in my love of the time clock. My new boss is a former consultant with a large accounting firm. He lived and worked his job for 30 years, in and out of the U.K. and the U.S. During my orientation, he shared with me that he loves punching in and out, for the same reasons. As I look around at my new clock-punching colleagues, I see some pretty happy people.

Someday in the not-too-distant future, I fully expect to go back to a position similar to the one I left a couple of years ago. Even though I tend to point out the negatives of that life, there were a lot of positives, not the least of which was the paycheck. I also enjoyed (much of) what I did for a living. However, when I do go back, I have decided that I will place my very own time clock on my desk. Or on my phone (is there an app for that?). I know I will still be checking emails and voicemails and dealing with crisis du jour while vacationing on Maui, but I am hopeful that the act of punching in and out will help demarcate the boundaries between work and home. And when others see me embracing that clock, I hope it reminds them that they, too, have a life worth punching out for.
Originally published January 8, 2014 in The Vail Daily.

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