July 1, 2013
What is the purpose of a vacation? Is it to visit a new or wonderfully familiar part of the world? To reconnect with loved ones and family? To rest? To explore your hometown or city? To take two strokes off of your golf game?
Yes to any of these. But that’s not all.
The purpose of a vacation is to, among other things, take a break that allows you to be mentally and physically ready for the challenges you may face when you return to work.
Vacation is basically the working world’s version of sleep. Recharging, refreshing and re-energizing allows you to function better.
This might seem like a rather cold view of your week on Cape Cod. I don’t mean to take the fun out of your holiday. On the contrary, the best way to ensure that you will be a better worker when you come back is to make sure that you have had a lot of fun and rest while you were away.
So how do you start this R-and-R process?
Lisa Aldisert, founder and president of the management-consulting firm Pharos Alliance, recommends limiting your contact with your office as much as you can while you’re away.
“If you’re checking your email all the time, you’re not on vacation,” she says. “You’re still at the office, just with a better view. You’re having a constant conversation about work and you’re not getting away.”
Set aside two 10-minute periods a day for contact with the office world. “Tell your colleagues and your most important clients that you will be checking email for 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes in the late afternoon. Let them know the specific times so they know when it’s best to reach you,” she says, adding that 9:30 in the morning and 4:00 in the afternoon are good times for this.
Tell key media contacts when you will be away and suggest the name of someone in your organization to help them in the interim. Let them know your email availability and that they may call you if it truly is an emergency.
Use your travel opportunity to check out the local media and history. Pick up regional or community papers and see what’s going on. Spend 10 minutes watching area newscasts to see what stories are resonating and how they are covering them. This will help you if and when you have a client situation nearby.
Learning the history of your vacation spot can also provide you with knowledge that you may use down the road. You may see a historic site that inspires a campaign or find an old tavern or hotel that would be the perfect location for an event. Enjoy the sites and activities, but don’t turn off the business-creative side of your brain.
So what should you do on vacation? Aldisert says you should “do something you’re not normally doing when you’re home. Whether it’s going to an outdoor farmers market, a flea market, a museum or a performance of something that has local color. Find something that will replenish you, and give you different insights because it’s local to where you are.”
The key, however, is to not try to do too much while you’re away. “Try not to overbook your days,” she says. “Go at a rhythm that does give you time to rest. Don’t get exhausted from sightseeing, or from too many visits with too many friends.”
Vacations are a good opportunity to catch up on that business reading you’ve meant to do. However, don’t only read business books. That is not “getting away,” it’s just doing your job somewhere else. But, reading a thought-provoking book on the beach for an hour, and then switching to the novel you’ve been wanting to read should satisfy both the working and vacationing sides of your mind.
Your trip could also provide a good opportunity to contact someone you haven’t seen in years or someone you’ve been wanting to meet. But, as with a lot of these other tips, the key is to limit the time. Don’t meet for dinner — meet for coffee. Say that you’re in town on vacation, but will be nearby and wanted to spend 30 minutes or so talking.
When it’s time to end your trip, “come back a day early — don’t come back the night before you return to your office,” Aldisert advises. Taking a day at home to regroup helps.
“Your first day back from being away should not be overly structured with appointments,” she says. “If you have to have meetings, have them in the afternoon only. Use the morning to clean off your desk, make the transition back, return calls to clients and the media. If you absolutely need to have appointments, wait for the afternoon.”
Approaching your vacation as a professional-advancement activity will likely ruin both your trip and your career. However, finding ways that your rest and relaxation can improve your work ethic when you return can improve your performance and outlook.
And, if you do it well enough, your boss might even encourage you to go away more often!
Ken Scudder, co-author of “World Class Communication,” is a writer, media and presentation trainer, and crisis consultant. He is also head writer of the award-winning sketch comedy troupe The Mistake.
Email: ken at kenscudder.com