Last week, while I was considering subjects for this article, I found myself thinking about a tip my daughter-in-law, Mary, gave me. Since she was trained by the military as a truck mechanic, I take her automotive advice seriously. Then, I had to laugh. I think this is the third Competitive Edge Report I’ve written where I talked about cars. It’s a bit bizarre, since I drive only about 1,000 miles a year and have had the same vehicle for more than a decade. Hmmm.

I guess I speak in car terms because we know most adults drive. It’s a skill that crosses genders, ages, ethnicities and regions. Also, it’s pretty simple.

That said, Mary’s advice was, “Always take the key out of the ignition, even that small amount of contact drains your battery.” It got me thinking about some conversations I’ve had with coaching clients, over the past few weeks. People are complaining they’re constantly engaged in their work whether they are on vacation, home, or in the office. There is contact 24/7. Some is self-imposed, others times it’s because of intrusive, abusive, demanding bosses. Due to this almost magnetic connection, people report an inability to relax, renew, and enjoy their down time, if in fact they can calm down at all. When they ask me my advice I question whether they’ve really taken the gears all the way down “are you still in ‘drive’ or maybe ‘neutral’ or ‘park’? Is the key out of the ignition?” Drivers know idling in “neutral” places everyone at risk because of the ease of forward or backward movement to where you may not want to go or have been. “Park” is a bit more stable; however, the engine remains on, you’re burning fuel and set to go at a moment’s notice. And as we learned from Mary, even some interaction can be draining.

If you’re away from the office and constantly checking your Blackberry or cell, are you really shut off? When your reading revolves solely around work topics, is that pleasure? Even if you love every minute of your work, is there a time when you think of something else, or better yet, nothing. At the end of a yoga practice there is a relaxation period. It is total relaxation—no movement, eyes shut, and an almost liquid posture of lying on your back on the floor. It’s hard to do if you mind is racing, your body wishes it was out the door or you’re drawn to the voices on the street. It takes practice to totally relax, a commitment to yourself and a willingness to explore and experience a piece of you that is not often available. I’ve been in sessions where people are clearly disturbed by the experience. They’re often the same people who have come to class with a cup of Joe in their hands, roller blades on their feet, and an iPhone in their pockets.

What if the answer to saving your battery, reducing the risk of going places you don’t want to be, or preventing someone else from driving your life, was to pull your key out of your ignition? What would that look like for you? How and where would you begin? How long would it take?

In coaching sessions, I often encourage people to do less rather than more. Just laid off? I say take some time to figure out what went wrong and use the luxury of freedom to weigh what you really want. Ending a relationship isn’t helped by quickly finding another, I would argue, in fact, it often complicates the process. Going away but staying in touch may not be the best way to recharge.

(c) Jane Cranston.

Author's Bio: 

Jane Cranston is an executive career coach. She works with success-driven executives, managers and leaders to reach their potential, better manage their boss and staff, as well as develop a career strategy to reach goals and aspirations. Jane is the author of Great Job in Tough Times a step-by-step job search system. Click here to subscribe to her twice monthly Competitive Edge Report.