Five Ways You Can Take a Real Vacation

by Productivity, Travel

When was the last time you took a vacation?

Did you check your inbox and your voice mail?

Did you take a work call on a cruise in the Mediterranean?

Did you feel overloaded when you left and more stressed when you came back?

That call from the Mediterranean? I was on a call with a guy who did this. I don't know what kind of badge he was sporting…Company Loyalty, Company Martyr, or Company Big Shot. I projected my own badges for him…Company Lackey, Family Ignoring, and Wanna Feel Like a Big Shot.

He wasn't even the CEO, CIO, CFO, or anything that ends in ‘O'.

According to Marketplace, Americans carry over or lose about nine days of vacation a year. Why? Are they scared that they won't be seen as committed? Feel like it isn't worth it for the work they come back to? The company doesn't promote reenergizing? Or they feel like they are so important or maybe they are so important and haven't delegated appropriately, that the company would fall apart if they weren't available for a week.

Stan Phelps highlights several companies who actually believe in energizing their employees in his book What's Your Green Goldfish? Full disclaimer, I had the opportunity to meet Stan and he is super-fab! I have read all three of his books and they are must-reads for business.

Five things I've learned about how to take a vacation.

  • Plan ahead. One thing I tell my clients is ‘treat every day like you are leaving for vacation tomorrow'. Why? Because people Get Shit Done when they are leaving for vacation. They prioritize and wrap stuff up, don't let themselves get distracted and focus on what really matters. Have a solid plan in place and decide if you are going to work when those work hours will be and then stick to 'em.

Example: When I went to San Francisco for a week, part of my vacation was meeting with people for work (bonus tax break!). I decided before I left that I would work on the plane going to and from, check email twice a day 3 of those days for 25 minutes each, do one client check-in and upload my newsletter. I put my phone on Do Not Disturb. I am a one-woman show with a virtual assistant. My company didn't fall apart and I still retained my clients even though I didn't meet with them for TWO weeks due to a business engagement when I got back.

  • Stick to your guns. When a client asks you to meet with them on your vacation unless it is a major deal or something that is a make or break for your business or company, ask someone else to do it or postpone the meeting. It's only a few days, right? If you're an American, I'm assuming the most you are able to take is two weeks because we are in no way as cool as the Europeans who understand what holiday really means. I'm not unrealistic and I would never tell an entrepreneur or solopreneur to skip an important meeting that could be income producing but consider if it can be postponed.
  • Save your pennies. My husband is a professional percussionist and drum teacher. There are no paid vacations. When he doesn't gig or teach he doesn't get paid. We put back money every month into a ‘deferred payment' bucket for the weeks that he won't be teaching. This way it isn't as hurtful when we go on vacay because we just take what he would have made out of that bucket.
  • Lean on someone. This could be a Virtual Assistant, Personal Assistant, co-worker, or friend to cover for you. Set them up with everything they need and then trust them to be able to do it. Tell the people you are going on vacay with what your plan is and make them hold you accountable. 

Example: I told my husband when I was planning on working. I let him check my texts twice a day to see if there was anything really urgent that I needed to attend to.  

  • Ease back in. Don't schedule meetings the day after you get back. A trick I used to have in corporate America was to put my OOO on for one day after I was really back in the office. Then, I would get caught up, work off-line and answer all my emails, and then on the day everyone thought I was back, I would sync and send the emails I had answered the day before. The only person that knew when my real first day back occurred was my boss.

Do you unplug during your vacation? How do you prepare?

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Your Weekender Snapshot and Tim Ferriss’s Five Bullet Friday are my favorite emails I receive.
jim west

Principal and Managing Director, GFF Architects