If you took a vacation and this post is relevant to you, congratulations! Taking time off is important.
However, coming back from vacation and hitting the ground running can be quite jarring. In fact, the whole notion of “post vacation blues” is actually a top excuse used to not take vacations by many Americans, and consequently, the American workforce leaves approximately 429 million paid vacation days on the table every single year. Wow. At the end of the day, [tweetable text="as a leader, it is your choice – no one else’s – to take or not take your provided vacation days." tweet="“as a leader, it is your choice – no one else’s – to take or not take your provided vacation days.” via @fierce_inc"]
In an effort to not contribute to that astronomical number, I recently took some time off for a vacation to France. It was an amazing adventure, from Eiffel Tower view picnics to being next to the summit of Mont Blanc to indulging in sunflower fields in Provence. The trip awakened my senses in a way that only travel can and deepened my appreciation for life, among other things. That is what all vacations should do in one way or another.
And then it was time to return to my busy life. And you have to return to yours, eventually. Here are three tips to consider to make your post-blissful time off to be the most successful.
- Before you go: Decide on how often you will check-in. There is a lot of advice about how much you should or shouldn’t check into the office while on vacation. The reality is that you need to find the level of comfort and satisfaction that works for you. Some people do not want to check work email at all. Others have anxiety with the very idea of seeing a three or four-digit number of emails in their inbox when they return. In Seth Godin’s book Tribes, he shares a story about being on vacation, not being able to sleep, and getting up early in the morning to check his email in the hotel lobby. A couple comes in from late-night partying, and one of them says, “Isn’t it sad? That guy comes here on vacation and he’s stuck checking his email. He can’t even enjoy his two weeks off.” Godin thinks to himself, “Other than sleeping, there was nothing I’d rather have been doing at that moment, because I’m lucky enough to have a job where I get to make change happen.” As leaders, and actually as human beings, we are all in different places in our lives, our careers, our journeys. Don’t rely on the standards set forth by others. Decide what works for you – every few days? Every morning? Never? Once you decide, communicate with your team. Be clear and transparent.
- Choose one thing. It is easy to be swept back into the everyday and not truly reflect on your time on vacation before you go back to “the grind”. Make sure to pause. A question Eric, my partner-in-crime, and I asked ourselves after our trip to France was: If we could incorporate one lesson/change based on what we enjoyed/learned/noticed on our trip, what would it be? Eric’s answer was to sloooow down. The French are good at taking time in the day and not rushing through their life in panicked frenzies (which let’s be honest, we see too often in American cities). My inspiration was from all the art, food, and beauty in France. The one thing I want to incorporate more in my life is to indulge in creative outlets – to paint or draw or anything that feels freeing. Now he and I can help each other incorporate these pieces into our lives. If we didn’t reflect on it, it would be impossible to be deliberate after coming back. Be just as intentional with your time off as you are with your time working. Take from the many memories and lessons you learned on your vacation – do not forget about them immediately upon your return.
- Schedule your next vacation. Even if it is a small trip or staycation. As Susan Scott, our Founder, mentioned in her piece How to Take a Vacation, “When your body and brain are running on fumes, you can’t do your best work. It’s important to step away from time to time - physically and mentally - so that you can return refreshed, energized. In fact, schedule three trips for the future. Each time you take one, add on another so that you always have something wonderful to anticipate.”
Look at your calendar and request your next time off. It can be a long weekend getaway, or even to play tourist in your own city or town.
The idea of not taking vacation because you don’t want to deal with coming back to a lot of work is a devastatingly unhealthy conversation with yourself. You deserve more. Don’t settle for that rationale.
Now go book an adventure somewhere, and use some strategies to come back to the office successfully.
Then report back. I want to know your tips and tricks – about your travels and your return.