Lessons from Vacation

Every time I take vacation, I remember how productive it is to actually stop what you’re doing and do nothing for a while. Vacation does so much more than recharge the batteries. It reminds you what is important, and it interrupts the steady stream of noise we navigate daily. 

Your effectiveness is not measured only by your production but also your ability to continue to produce at that level. If there’s a shortcoming most driven people have, it’s their overestimation of their capacity to do work. They work to outlast the next guy like it is a badge of honor. But the reality is: running yourself into the ground doesn’t serve anybody.

These are a few things vacation taught me:

What’s really important…

Preparing for vacation does a great job of spotlighting the most vital tasks on your plate. Hint: it’s the stuff that gets done before you leave. It teaches you that if you focused more on what is really important, you’d have time to take on more tasks (and maybe even take more vacations…)

That I contribute to the noise…

I’ve talked about the noise level before. It’s deafening. There’s always so much to do. If nothing’s right in front of you, then you feel like you need to get ahead of the next project. Before long, you’re on the proverbial hamster wheel, albeit with good intentions, and it’s becoming more and more difficult to turn the volume down. When you truly unplug on vacation you realize the role you play in contributing to the noise. Sure, the messages keep coming in while you are away, but without feeling the need to reply, they are more or less kept to a minimum.

How much email is created in your inbox every day because you use it for conversations? Moreover, once you're involved in that conversation, do you feel like you can’t leave it? Do you end up living in your inbox, mentally if not physically, sapping your ability to get meaningful work done? Imagine actually walking to your physical mailbox 20 times a day... How ridiculous does that sound? Ok, is it really that much less ridiculous just because you carry it in your pocket?

That my social media presence won’t evaporate without me…

When you stay out of social media during your vacation, you realize that you don’t miss much. While I really enjoy interacting with people on LinkedIn, and I post my thoughts there almost daily, it doesn't need to be a compulsion in order to be used successfully. I've actually seen some people recently alert their networks that they'll be taking a break. That seems a bit extreme to me, and indicative of a mania. It doesn't need to be that way. This need to feel connected electronically is mostly artificial. When you leave it alone for a while, you learn that there isn't a whole lot on a day-to-day basis that absolutely requires your attention.

That I miss being active every day…  

On vacation, I realized I missed being active every day. For me, this comes from a pretty relentless travel schedule over the past couple of months. Despite a large amount of time spent outside (even working while on the golf course) it's been a while since I've seen the inside of a gym. There were no dumbbells or squat racks involved during my vacation, but I was active for the sake of being active this week, and I like it.

Like most people, I've struggled with where to find the time to mind my fitness. You can call it a priority; you can force yourself to do it; but unless you really mean it, those strategies take a toll and are largely unsustainable. There are only so many things you can do first thing in the morning. For me, especially during the work week, one of those things is not a workout. However, if I'm not spending as much time in my inbox, I can spend more time in a CrossFit box, or at Orangetheory, or in running shoes...

That time away means time to think

I mention this last, though I think it's become apparent by now. Breaks are important because the switch away from the routine gives your brain time for active rest. If you're in sales, your brain is cranking 14 hours a day, constantly analyzing a customer situation, a project you're working on, etc. Let's face it, your brain is working on weekends too. If you don't purposely take time away to shut down—and more regularly than you think—then there's no way you're doing your best work.

Of course, I thought about my business and my clients while vacationing. Incidentally, I even brought on a new one! But when the day-to-day operations of my business are not a concern, it's a different kind of thinking. It's a higher level, strategic thinking. It’s Quadrant II type thinking.

You need to give yourself, and your brain, room to breathe. You should probably do that once a quarter. My next two vacations are already planned. They don't have to be fancy or extravagant, just time spent connecting with the people and the things that you love the most. Shifting gears enables better performance, and reconnecting with your purpose is always a must.