You Need a Vacation!
How do you go on a vacation?
Do I really need to write a blog about how to go on vacation? Why’s that? Oh, that’s right, because we typically suck at it.
Americans are crazy. We work crazy hard and we are crazy devoted to our crazy customers. We have crazy fears that whisper in our ears, making it difficult—if not impossible—to enjoy a simple family trip. Ah, the good old days when life was simpler. The family loaded off in the woodie and, just like that Norman Rockwell picture, headed for the sandy shores, leaving everything behind...especially work.
Now, however, there is no end to the day. We check our e-mail messages all night, first thing in the morning and on weekends, certain that if we don’t there will be consequences. Going on vacation is something that we agree to but then quickly start thinking about how we can covertly stay in touch. We kid ourselves that we can work on vacation, that it’s best if we do, that we have to. Or else.
But it doesn’t work out that way. Case in point...
Planned itinerary for typical vacation day:
- Wake up to breakfast, coffee, newspaper, conversation with family
- Go for a walk to get exercise
- Grab a book and head to the pool or beach
- Apply some SPF 45, sit back with a cold drink, read a novel or listen to music
- Bake in the sun
- Drinks and dinner followed by a family game of Scrabble
- Surprised at how tired you are, get to sleep early
Actual itinerary for typical vacation day:
- Wake up to e-mails found on your smartphone
- Skip breakfast
- Tell your spouse you’ll go for a walk later
- Skip the shower
- Call to check in
- Feel the results of checking in: get stressed/feel guilty
- Head to the beach, forgetting the SPF 45
- Bake in the sun while your mind races with thoughts about work
- Call to check in
- Drinks (alone) and dinner (reheated) while your family plays Scrabble
- Surprised at how mad your spouse is
- Sleep on the couch while promising yourself tomorrow will be different
It's an inconvenient truth that while everyone needs time off (no one would argue that point), few of us have mastered the skill of shutting down entirely. Sure, we leave with good intentions. We are tired and burned out and looking forward to the time away. But at the same time we dread leaving our clients, fearful of what will happen if we are away from our babies for too long: Orders will go awry. Customers will call our competition. No one understands them like we do so maybe we shouldn’t go on vacation after all!!!
Stop. Understand this: The stress that is giving you these thoughts is the same stress that you need to escape from. Do you remember being in elementary school and getting recess? Educators did that because they knew you need a break in order to learn effectively. Ditto for work. Okay? Then let’s talk about how to go on vacation...
- Prepare for vacation by
- Informing key accounts, providing your customers with the name and phone number of the person who is to cover for you;
- Sitting with that person to go over details of each account and any orders that are in-house;
- Creating an away message on your voicemail and e-mail;
- Committing to letting go; and
- Letting go.
- Go on vacation with the understanding that
- You need a break;
- You are not as essential as you think you are;
- You need a break;
- You will get a phone call, if necessary; and
- You need a break!
If you absolutely, positively, must check in with the office, call at exactly 3 p.m. every day. This gives you two hours prior to the end of the day to handle anything that needs handling immediately. Further, it is generally understood that any call that comes in after 3 o’clock can wait till the morning.
Ancillary issue: E-mail. Do you check it on vacation or wait until you get back? If you check it, you won’t have a mountain of messages upon return. That's the thinking, anyway. The downside is that doing so stimulates your brain and counteracts the effects of vacation. Try, try, try to leave your e-mail account closed. Yes, you will have a lot to deal with when you get back, but the state of bliss you will find, the reconnection with your spouse and family, and the memories you will create far outweigh any inconvenience.
Oh, and wait until you are back in the office before you start checking messages and calling clients. Your Norman Rockwell painting should not depict you talking on the phone. Stay present to your children and spouse! Stay in your happy place.
We crazy Americans work very hard. It’s rather like being the conductor of a train that is going 100 miles an hour. Life is full. Business is all-consuming. It will be difficult at first to truly go on vacation. It takes three full days before you can pull the train into the station and stop. Trust that your staff and co-workers can handle things. You need the rest. You need the break. Take it.