Insights from the author
It's that vacation time of the year again, but this year feels different. The accumulation of fatigue is a little higher, the world is a little more unstable, and the future looks a little scarier. For these reasons and more, this vacation may be one of your most important. So are you leaving it to chance, or are you approaching it with the level of intention, purposefulness, and creativity that it really needs?
Many of you will plan the length of your vacation, the location (the "Where"), and maybe even the things to do (the "What") on your vacation. But too often, many forget the “Why" of vacation. It sounds simple, but it happens all the time.
Executives often ask us, "How long does a vacation need to be to recharge?" That depends on how you transition from work to vacation, whether you really recharge, and how you show up to your vacation. When recharging is your top priority, and you plan all your vacation events to align with that, you could physically recharge in as little as five days and emotionally recharge in as few as three days. Unfortunately, what happens too often is a person takes a week-long vacation, thinks their priority is physically recharging, then turns it into a fitness camp, exercising at a high intensity five days in a row. They return from vacation feeling sore, exhausted, and definitely not restored. Why did this happen? There was a disconnect between their actions and the "Why" of recharging. They acted as if the “Why" was to do a cram session sort of boot camp approach to try and get physically fit. We’re not saying exercising is a bad thing, but we are saying that if your "Why" is recharging, the way you exercise may be completely different.
Similarly, many executives don’t properly transition into and out of their vacation. Without these transitions, they bring their work self on vacation, and the brain thinks it is supposed to be fully on and problem-solving. When this happens, it can take 3-5 days just to get into vacation mode. Then, on the return from vacation, the same thing can happen where their vacation self shows up at work unprepared to engage. In this condition, they can be easily overwhelmed, and the vacation is quickly forgotten.
You can avoid this very common self-image trap by creating a transition where you first ask yourself (both coming in and coming off vacation), “Who do I need to be to maximize my effectiveness?” Also, spend a little time visualizing yourself as that person so your brain can believe that you can make it happen.
One common question that comes up in our coaching is whether to work or not work during vacation. The truth is: it really depends. If you would feel better checking in and dealing with any potentially critical items, you may want to adapt the 60-minute work sprint in the morning during vacation (followed by 23 hours of being fully off). If, on the other hand, you can’t turn your mind off once it gets turned on, it may be better to fully delegate your responsibilities and perform a thorough handoff at least one day before leaving. Then, you can remain fully off throughout your vacation. Both of these situations can work, but they must be designed. If you leave it to chance, you are leaving the door open for work creep and potentially creating a huge source of conflict with your family.
As you plan your vacations, here are a few questions to help you get what you want and need:
_Why am I taking this vacation? (Is it, for example, to recharge my batteries, reconnect with friends and or family, change the scenery, have fun, go somewhere I have never been, cross something off my bucket list, get back in shape, work on my golf game, finish my manuscript?)
_What does success look like on this vacation and when I return from vacation? Think about emotional connections, stimulation, regeneration, etc. Based on this, you may want to go through your TIGNUM intention setting questions for both your vacation and your return from vacation. How do I want to be perceived? What do I want those I'm with to know? How do I want them to feel?
_When I return from my vacation, how do I want to feel (e.g., relaxed, energized, pain-free, inspired, focused, passionate, creative, in love, reconnected to my family)?
_What do I need to do on this vacation to make this vision of success a reality?
If you approach your vacation with this intentionality, you can quickly see that questions like these answer themselves. Should I shut down 100% or stay connected? Should we do five big things or one big thing? Should we chill on the beach or explore a new city or nature park? There are infinite ways to design and execute a vacation, and they can all be right, or they can all be wrong - it depends on what it is you want.
Sustainable Human Performance doesn't happen by luck or chance; it happens by design. This is why you may want to design your next vacation to make it the best ever.