It’s August now in the Northern Hemisphere – time for vacations, traveling, family reunions and other fun summer stuff. It’s the one time when everyone seems to take a break. Unfortunately, there were times in my career when I didn’t consider August as being much fun. In fact, it was a hassle. Nothing got accomplished; no one was around to make decisions or complete projects. My company’s productivity was down the tubes. When everyone came back after Labor Day, there was more to do and less time in which to do it.
I’m sure you know the saying, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” Well, what’s left out of that saying is Jack also becomes unproductive, burnt out – even bitter. And I know, because I used to be Jack.
After enjoying a much-needed vacation one year, one that had no computer, cell phone, voicemail or other work interruptions, I noticed that I needed downtime. It wasn’t even an exotic cruise in the Caribbean; it was just relaxing. A simple car trip or week in my garden could bring me the same energy boost, as long as it’s something I wanted to do. The vacation wasn’t a hit to my productivity; it was a boost. I went back to work feeling energized and motivated. Work that I had been dreading, went by quickly and painlessly.
As it turns out there are lots of benefits from a little R&R:
- We all need rest. Some people, many of them business owners, are on the go constantly. Those people especially need to stop and rest. The result is improved health, stronger relationships and increased energy.
- There’s more to life than work. While work may be enjoyable, soaking in the sun, walking in the woods or spending time with friends and family also has significant value. It makes you a more interesting person to talk to, work with and be with.
- Time away helps put things into perspective. Something that seems really important before you leave for vacation might seem trivial by the end of the vacation. Priorities that seem complex and interwoven beforehand become clear or even unimportant.
- Time away lets the right brain get some playing time. When you take a break, the result is improved creativity. Creativity is hard to find when we are focused on efficiency. I once had a boss who was so creative on and just after his vacations that we would dread them. He would go away for a week and come back with 15 or 20 new projects that we needed to evaluate. And the thing was, they were usually pretty good ideas!
- It resets the bar. Many business owners are hard chargers. We set a standard for ourselves and as soon as we reach it, we set it even higher. Getting away helps us reset our expectations, focus on some successes and feel good for a while.
Of course, when I was the type of person who needed to be told to
take time off, I did not even know how.
Here are a few pointers:
- Use Your Vacation to Train Your Team. Your business doesn’t have to come to a screeching halt when you go on vacation. Train one or more people to handle your responsibilities while you are gone. They may surprise you at how well they do, and this may serve as a good test of whether they can handle more job responsibilities in the future. Give detailed instructions and set clear limits to their authority before you go.
- Leave your job at work. In CareerBuilder.com’s 2006 vacation survey, 27 percent of the workers surveyed said they plan to work while on vacation. Don’t be one of them! Try working to live, not living to work – at least while you’re on vacation.
- Check in – but not a lot. When you own your own business, you may feel the need to do call to check in, but set limits. Say to yourself: “I won’t call more than every two days.” One of my teams made a deal with me, each time I called to “check-in” meant that I owed them lunch. Each time they called me, they owed me lunch. Neither one called and the business continued just fine.
- Take off during your slow times. Most businesses have slow times. If you can, try to go during that period to minimize the impact on your business’ bottom line.
One last point: When you get back from vacation, try to incorporate relaxation into your regular routine. When I get back from vacation, the temptation is to compensate for the time off by being twice as productive and working twice as much. The truth is, we need regular time off, each month. So grab your calendar now and mark some days in September, October and November when you will do no work; it might be just a Saturday here or a Sunday there. I know if I don’t block out my relaxation time, it won’t get done and I’ll end up working straight through until Christmas.
Who would have ever thought not working would be as tough as working? Make it a habit and see just how great not working can be.
Photo credit: Moyan_Brenn