Ten Ways To Guarantee You Take A Rejuvenating VacationJul 06, 2023
Welcome to Friday 411, issue #035. In 4 minutes, with 1 insight and 1 action, you’ll learn how to take an intentionally restful vacation.
Leaders often treat vacations as a time of reduced work. But this habit robs you of the ability to rejuvenate your mind and energy.
One of our life goals is to take an annual, month-long break for travel. This year, we are taking a major step toward this goal. From mid-June through mid-July, we’re taking a semi-Sabbatical.
In a normal Sabbatical, we would step away from work completely. This year, we decided to try a semi-Sabbatical. There will be no direct client work (speaking, workshops, consulting) during this time. But we’ll check email every few days after our assistant has vetted the messages.
Early in my career, I (Garland) treated Paid Time Off (PTO) like reduced work. I would typically spend 2-3 hours per day working during my “time off.” I called into meetings and responded to emails every day. We would plan vacation activities around my work responsibilities. I remember stepping aside at Disney World to take calls, motioning my family to move on without me.
I would come back from most vacations feeling depleted and not ready to fully reengage.
During my doctoral research on busyness and leadership, I discovered how critical it is for leaders (and everyone) to take time away from work—not only time away from the office but also time away from all work-related activities.
Disengaging from work gives you space to refuel your energy. Energy is critical to work and productivity. In other words, taking time away from work is critical to increasing your Capacity as a leader.
If you want to increase your Capacity, completely disengage from work while you’re off the clock. Here are ten ways to ensure a rejuvenating vacation:
1. Identify critical commitments you must keep before you leave.
Nothing can ruin a vacation as much as realizing that you forgot about a major deadline. Think through anything you must accomplish before vacation.
If you have a major deadline that’s due right after you return from vacation, try to complete it prior to your vacation. For example, Dorothy and I wanted to keep our newsletter running while we were away. That meant we had to work ahead of time to complete enough posts for the whole trip.
2. Clear your runway before vacation.
In the 2-3 days before your vacation, schedule as few meetings as possible. Meetings typically create a giant list of action items. Give yourself the freedom to move into your time away without major obligations.
3. Create a Don’t Do List.
Before you leave, identify what you’re committed to not doing on vacation. You could say that you’re committed to not answering phone calls or checking email or responding to GroupMe messages. For me, I love to read books on leadership and business. But I’ve added reading those types of books to my Don’t Do List. This action frees my mind from thoughts that focus on work.
4. Tell Key People that You’re Stepping Away.
Whether it’s your boss, staff, or clients, make sure you communicate that you’re stepping away. For the last few months, I’ve been letting many of my clients know that I’ll be out of pocket for this trip. If you start talking to people in advance, it gives them time to communicate anything they need before you leave. You can even say, “I’m going on vacation next week. Is there anything I can do to help you before I leave?”
5. Communicate Your Boundaries.
When you create clear boundaries, you clarify for people how to interact with you over vacation. Dan Sullivan, the creator of Strategic Coach, tells his staff that they are to have zero communication with him during his vacations. He sets up a very clear boundary.
For our semi-Sabbatical, we’ve set up a boundary with my assistant. We will communicate one time per day at a specific time. If she doesn't have anything to communicate or ask that day, she'll send me a message that says, "Nothing to talk about." This boundary makes it very clear when I will be engaging in communication.
Another way to create a boundary is to give someone else your authority in decision-making. Inform everyone who reports to you that you’re leaving a specific person in charge. That way, if your team has questions or important conversations, they don't depend on you. They know exactly who to go to.
One last word about boundaries: if you communicate them to people, stick to them on vacation. You will rob yourself of your rejuvenation if you break your boundaries.
6. Never apologize for taking time away.
You should never apologize for taking a vacation. Give yourself the freedom to celebrate and enjoy your time away, and celebrate it when others take time away from work.
7. Remove unintended saboteurs.
The biggest killer of disengagement from work is your phone. During your vacation, delete any apps on your phone that could suck you into work: email, calendar, group messaging services, etc. Set up focus modes on your phone that allow notifications only from those who are on the trip with you.
8. Give yourself two days to catch up after you return.
I’ve found it takes two full days after I return from vacation to catch up on all the emails and missed conversations. (It might take more for this break since I’ll be gone a full month.) Block time on your calendar after the vacation to catch up.
Personally, I love to return from vacation late in the week so I have Thursday and Friday to catch up and then a weekend before I jump back into work.
9. Say “thanks” to all the people who helped you disengage.
When you return, make sure you show gratitude to all the folks who supported you while you got away. Share experiences that you enjoyed. Your revived energy will help give energy to everyone on your team. Let them know how much you appreciate them.
10. Give others the same freedom of vacation.
Now that you’ve experienced a rejuvenating vacation, make sure you give others the ability to experience it, too. They’ll come back from their time away ready to give their best as well.
Create a checklist to remind you of these ten practices before your next vacation.
Want to live and lead more intentionally? Here are three ways we can help:
1. Follow Garland on LinkedIn for daily posts on leadership, culture, and intentional living.
2. Get your copy of Gettin' (un)Busy, named by Forbes as "one of the books everyone on your team should read."
3. Contact us if your company wants help developing leaders. We offer speaking, workshops, coaching, and ongoing leadership development.