Kicking back can be hard for hard-charging entrepreneurs. Here’s how to actually unwind on your next holiday.
Here’s a helpful reminder for you: vacations are actually supposed to be relaxing.
Sure, but not all of them. If you’re a college student with months of free time, you should probably consider activities other than lounging on the beach and sipping umbrella drinks. The same is true for taking time off to volunteer or go on an adventure to far-off but worthwhile locations.
But for the majority of business owners, the problem isn’t taking too many memorable but sometimes stressful vacations. It’s that a relaxing trip with family or friends, which is meant to be an opportunity to unwind and clear your thoughts, instead becomes a cause for shame and concern over work. In general, you wind up returning (to a mountain of collected work) worse rested than when you went since you worry about the health of your business while you’re away, irritate your traveling companions by working instead of relaxing, and cause yourself unnecessary stress.
Is this fate avoidable? Indeed it is, insists author and happiness expert Christine Carter on the blog of UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center. She offers a three-step plan of attack to make your time away actually relaxing.
There are those out there who argue that it is OK to bow to the inevitable and work a bit while on vacation, claiming it is possible combine a holiday with an unsevered connection to the office and still come back refreshed. Carter isn’t among them.
“This might be blazingly obvious, but not working is a critical aspect of actually taking time off,” she admonishes type-A professionals. How do you accomplish total disconnection in the real world? “See if you can find a vacation partner, someone who will cover for you at work should an urgent situation arise. (A reciprocal relationship is ideal: They handle your work while you are gone, then you do the same when they take their vacation.),” suggests Carter. Then tell your give your team your partner’s contact details and what to expect from you (i.e. absolutely no communication while you’re away).
Carter makes a point here that absolutely bears emphasizing — vacations are not simply meant to furnish impressive photos for Facebook! The trip that looks the coolest on social media is not necessarily the one that will do your mental health (and long-term productivity) the most good.
“We pack our vacations with nonstop action when what we really need is time at the pool to nap… Our more more more culture leads us to believe that more will definitely be better–more activities, more destinations, more sights to be seen,” she writes, but more excitement isn’t always better. “Before you pack your vacation with a lot of stuff that will look good on Facebook but will actually leave you needing a vacation from your vacation, schedule yourself some downtime,” Carter insists. Also, consider carefully if the adventure/ stress quotient of your planned getaway is really what you need at this particular moment.
Have a re-entry strategy.
Even if your vacation was the mellowest break ever, you’re going to quickly lose that chilled out vibe if you come back to a stressed out team and insane to-do list. Carter suggests you give yourself a little bit of time to get your head in the game when you return (no getting in on a six a.m. flight and heading to the office at nine!) and having someone sort through your email while you’re away, deleting junk, responding to (or forwarding) anything urgent, and moving items that you’ll need to respond to into a special folder.
Others have suggested more radical approaches to avoiding coming back to thousands of unread messages, which might be worth a try, but the larger point is simply to consider carefully not only how to avoid stress on your vacation, but also on your re-entry.
And how about if it’s not you but your staff that’s struggling to really get away from the office and unplug? HBR recently offered a great post for bosses, offering advice on how to encourage your team to take the vacation time they need.