Thinking About… Vacations

by julia.hanigsberg | August 2nd, 2011

Whether it is the call of the loon or exploring all the cultural festivals a “staycation” in the city provides, the summer months are when many of us turn our minds to vacations. Halfway through summer 2011 I’ve been thinking about vacations, those who take them and those who don’t, and why I think time off is an opportunity for leadership.

As busy as we all are we need ways to recharge our batteries. Even the toughest among us need some respite, some change of pace. But how do we do that when the work never stops? How can we justify taking a week, 2 or 3 or even a month off? And does a day off with your Blackberry or iPhone at your waist count at all?

So here are 5 thoughts about vacations:

  1. Vacation is in the eye of the beholder. It may be a beach with trashy magazines for one person and getting down to writing a novel for someone else. Maybe it is cleaning out your garage or staining the deck. It may even be catching up on six months of professional reading or writing a blog on the dock. The point is vacation should make you feel good and be a mental break from your regular 9-5 (or 5-9).
  2. If you lead a team then you better think about the example you set. Leaders who don’t ever take a break send the message that vacations are for wimps. Lead by example—take a break and create the environment that allows the people you work with to get their vacation time too.
  3. Try to at least use technology differently when you are on vacation. I can’t imagine doing without email or tuning out from my various social media addictions. But I do try to ignore work emails and my office knows how to get me when the truly urgent or unexpected requires my attention. Consider a technology vacation mode that feels fun and relaxing to you.
  4. Create the ability to scale back and take time off by creating a great team around you. Build up your talent so you have the 2ICs in place who can “act” for you and give you peace of mind that the trains will continue to run on time and priorities will continue to move forward. Leaders who build strength in their teams and trust them are the big winners.
  5. Don’t feel pressured by exhortations to find “work life balance.” I don’t think balance is achievable—at least I haven’t mastered it. We are driven by our passions and those rarely are balanced. When work needs to absorb you it probably will and life similarly will have to take precedence when it demands it (I challenge you to find the balanced way to deal with a baby with a 103 degree fever…). Perfect equilibrium is unattainable. So don’t sweat it. Find ways to refresh, rejuvenate and release your creativity.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Comment here or let me know what you think on Twitter @hanigsberg.

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