“When are you going on vacation?” I asked the leader I was coaching.
“We fly Saturday morning,” they replied. “But, I have so much to do before I log off on Friday.”
This is such a common predicament for leaders I speak with.
With limited time off each year, their vacations appear like the mirage of an oasis on the horizon in a blistering desert. As the time-off gets closer, they realise how desperately they need a break, running on adrenalin alone as they sprint to the time when they can finally log off.
“Do you check your work email whilst away,” I asked causing the leader to look at me sheepishly.
“Only occasionally,” they replied.
“But I only check it to stay on top of any issues and so I don’t come back to an overflowing inbox,” they concluded.
“So, you don’t really take time off from work then?” I half asked, half stated.
“I guess not,” the leader admitted.
After a brief pause, I asked a simple question that really got them thinking.
“What’s the worst that could happen if you didn’t check your email?”
The leader took a moment to gather their thoughts.
“Well, something might happen that needs my attention,” they replied carefully.
“And if you can’t give your attention?” I responded.
“My team would have to deal with it,” they stated without hesitation.
“And would you trust your team to deal with most issues?” I asked.
“Absolutely,” they stated again without hesitation, as the penny was starting to drop.
“So why do you need to be online as it doesn’t seem like the world is going to collapse without you?” I asked to cement the point.
There are implications
Most leaders feel compelled to at least check their work email whilst away. Whether it’s to feed our need for distraction or our fear of missing out, or even to fuel a strange sense of self-importance that staying connected seems to give us, not switching off has implications on our ability to re-charge and re-focus.
It would be niave to say that there are never times when you need to be contactable on vacation. However, I firmly believe that these are few and far between.
However, if you want to properly wind down and recharge on your vacation, you have to have the discipline to switch off. This means properly disconnect from work by either not taking your work devices with you on vacation or keeping them well out of site if you do. Then if you absolutely have to check-in with work, only do so in the late afternoon. This will stop you dwelling on work through the day.
Wind down to recharge
The reason it takes us days to wind down from work when on vacation is due to the amount that work consumes our thoughts. By switching off we allow those thoughts to dissipate, which helps us wind down, giving us the headspace (time and energy) to replace the thoughts about work with other thoughts.
Wind up to refocus
As our thoughts about work dissipate, we must find something else to think about. This means adopting a mindful practice of refocusing our attention. Once you arrive at your vacation destination, very early on take some time to capture a few questions that you really want to focus on. Questions like…
“Am I being who I want to be?”
“Am I focusing on what’s important to me?”
“Am I fulfilling my potential?”
…are all great starting places to help you focus your attention on changes you want to make once you return from vacation.
Create a plan
Using your time on vacation to recharge and refocus means you can create a plan for when you return to work. Often when we return to work after a vacation, it takes only a few hours to forget that we’ve even been away. Rather than risk just getting swept back in the pressure of work when you get back from vacation, whilst you’re away create a plan for how you will be more intentional about how you spend your time. Through this plan, you ensure that your time off didn’t just help you recharge, but it also helps you refocus your attention on that which is most important to you when back from work.
Something to consider…
When planning for your next vacation consider how you can set yourself up to properly switch off by either not taking hour work devices or limiting any need to check them.
Something to try…
Before you go on vacation, capture some questions that you really want to focus on to help you refocus on what is most important to you.
At Muru we help leaders build and sustain their confidence as they seek to achieve the success and fulfilment they desire.
To find out more contact Rob Cross at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him on +44 (0) 78417 06417.
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