I just read a LinkedIn post where a connection said she is working to get away and take a vacation next week, but that it’s hard and stressful leading up to that moment. I get it. I’ve been there, too. As the founder and CEO, she wants to lean into and live out the value that her company holds around life balance and the importance of relaxation.
I gave her a big thumbs up.
Anyone who knows me knows that I love to travel. It’s something I prioritize.
I’m incredibly grateful that I’m in the financial position to travel, and I never forget that.
Benefits beyond the obvious
For me, travel is a refresh for my brain.
It gives me time to relax, to unwind, to reenergize myself, and to let my mind wander. I think about problems and challenges in new ways. I ask my spouse and other loved ones for their thoughts and opinions, and I often get great input from them. I read books and listen to podcasts that I don’t normally take time to enjoy. I discover insights and ways of thinking about the world and my little piece of it.
Amazingly, a recent study found that 55 percent of Americans did not use all of their paid vacation time.
This concept is so foreign to me. I started working at 16, and during my entire working lifetime, I’ve taken every vacation day I could get almost as soon as I earned them.
Travel is a huge part of who I am, and it represents a lot more than just a few days off.
Travel is about being open to new thoughts and new experiences. It involves dealing with the unexpected. It requires being flexible, thoughtful, good at handling uncertainty, good at planning, and yet spontaneous and open to new opportunity.
I think those are traits we can all use and apply to work.
Earlier this year, I visited the Grand Canyon with my mother, sister, and niece. I had been there years before but still found it breathtaking in its grandeur.
I sat silent on the rim and mentally replayed the challenges of the past year or two. There’s been a lot of them, for all of us.
What I felt can only be described as complete peace. Complete relaxation.
In the immenseness of that silent place, I felt at peace, and closer to God. It was as if the canyon itself was reminding me that my worries and concerns that seem so big are not that big at all, and that God’s got them.
Tips for carving out time this summer for vacation
Some things that come naturally to us don’t come naturally for others. In that spirit, let me share what works for me when trying to take time off.
I think it’s important for all of us to carve out those moments where we can relax, let our mind wander, have fun, and restore our soul.
Some of my biggest insights and best ideas have come to me during or after I’ve taken time off.
So, without delay, here are my top 10 tips for taking vacation:
- Recognize and accept that you won’t get everything done before you leave. Some tasks and projects will have to wait. This is just like life, and work, in general. Not everything can be a priority. Choose what truly matters and is urgent and important and leave the rest for when you return.
- Be open to options yet focus on what matters most. Vacation doesn’t have to be expensive, and it doesn’t have to cost a lot. Last week I spent half a day at a free museum. I took time to sit in front of my favorite paintings and relax for a few minutes. I didn’t rush through trying to see the entire museum. It was what Italians would call “la dolce far niente,” or the sweetness of doing nothing. It’s something you can incorporate into your summer plans by simply savoring something you enjoy and taking your time. I incorporate that into my daily life by taking walks through neighborhoods with interesting and historic houses. It’s a simple pleasure but one I enjoy a great deal.
- Lots of activities qualify as restorative and relaxing. Maybe it’s not a museum visit but another activity that restores you. I have a colleague who likes to kayak in the mornings. Another friend visits and cares for her horse. Another likes to visit thrift stores, browse, and let her mind wander. Another loves to read while sitting on her porch. All of those can be restorative activities for a summer day. Get in touch with whatever brings you joy.
- Acknowledge and make space for you. I know you’re busy, but really, unless you truly are a brain surgeon, there’s not much that’s such an emergency it can’t wait for a few hours.
- Model healthy behavior and lead by example. Set a good example by caring for yourself and your mental health. Your employees will be reluctant to take time off if they see you not taking time off. Your behavior sets a standard for them to follow.
- Reject the stigma that taking time off means you’re replaceable or not a hard worker. That’s BS. I’ve never heard a single business leader say that’s true, but it’s a common fear in American workplaces.
- Initiate healthier conversations within your workplace and with your clients that taking time off is acceptable and even encouraged. Build a culture of taking care of your own mental and physical health and that of your employees. I’ve never had a client react negatively or tell me I can’t take time off when I’ve supplied plenty of notice and built my vacation into our project timelines. In fact, if you’re against vacations, we can’t work together, but I would like to know why you feel that way. Text me.
- If you can’t stop work completely, set a time limit for work-related activities and adhere to your limit. If you must check email, check it once each morning or afternoon, and avoid responding to things that aren’t an emergency. 99% of those emails are not an emergency. If I emailed someone and they responded with “Thanks for your patience, I was out of the office for a few days” I would think “good for them” instead of “you ass, you didn’t get back to me promptly.” I don’t think I’m alone in that.
- Make peace with turning off your email notifications and using autoresponder. Just like the old days of answering machines, there’s nothing wrong with letting the machine get it and returning it when you’re ready. Same goes for texts.
- Make space each day for joy. I hate to go all Marie Kondo on you but try to incorporate more joy in your life. Joy and relaxation don’t have to come from a week away. Find ways to restore yourself by bringing a small joy or two into each workday.
I hope these tips are helpful. If you have ones to add, please comment below. Others might benefit from your clever ideas.
Here’s to a relaxing and restorative summer! You’ve worked hard this year.