It’s hard to slow down.
I’m often the first to embrace new technologies and digital devices. Like they do for so many business professionals and entrepreneurs, they keep me connected to the important people and organizations in my life. They enable me to be untethered from my desk and office, because I can be reached from anywhere in the world.
That’s the good news.
The bad news, as you may well know, is that unless we’re extremely intentional about it, those connections follow us even to the times and places that should provide rest and relaxation: evenings, weekends, and vacations. That’s when the connections can become chains, and the result is the insidious erosion of down time and its essential restorative impact on our lives.
This is not just theory.
Science has shown that insufficient rest, sleep, and time away from our work can impair performance, reduce mental acuity, jeopardize good judgment, and increase stress with all its detrimental health effects. Too often, we forget we are the most important asset in our life and in our business. We must give ourselves—our souls and bodies— at least the same attention and respect we give the equipment and machinery in our factories and warehouses.
I’m not alone in preaching this message, and I need to practice it more diligently than I do. With summer being the traditional vacation time in many parts of the world, it’s natural our minds might turn to the value of rest and relaxation. I’ve recently read several articles that approach the issue from various angles. Here are a some of the best:
- “How to vacation like a pro [podcast],” an interview with Michael Hyatt by Michele Cushatt. They cover a key strategy for eliminating work worries while you’re away, being clear about the purpose of your vacation, building margin into your schedule so you don’t go back to work the day after you return, and how to prepare your clients and business associates for your absence. You can either listen to the podcast or download the transcript if you prefer to read.
- “How to slow down summer” by Kat Lee on The Art of Simple Website. Ms. Lee suggests ways to step off the fast track and still live life to the fullest, especially during the summer. These include doing something different or unexpected, putting down your cell phone and paying attention, or undertaking a challenge that gets your mind off of the routine stresses and pressures of your life.
- “The importance of vacations to our physical and mental health: Why Presidents (and all of us) need vacations” by Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D., for Psychology Today. This was apparently written in response to criticism of the President taking a vacation, but Dr. Whitbourne explains the toll that chronic stress plays on our ability to resist illness and avoid injury. She enumerates many other effects on our health, performance, and even relationships. She offers tips for getting the most out of vacation time and urges that you occasionally take enough time to really get the rest you need—not just a long weekend here and there. She even makes a case for staycations.
So stop a moment and take stock of your life and your schedule. Consider ways you can intentionally unplug from your electronic devices and be unavailable to your clients and staff for a while. One of the most radical approaches I’ve read about lately was suggested by Michael Hyatt, who—when he goes on vacation—changes his out-of-office message to say his assistant will be deleting all emails that come in while he’s away and that if the message is important, the sender should send it after a given date or contact whomever is in charge until he returns. He expected anger or frustration from his peers and clients. Instead, they congratulated him and said they wished they had the guts to do it too.
Yes, it takes guts to really take those breaks from your work that truly nourish your body and soul. And here’s another interesting thing about how creativity works: you’re much more likely to come up with your next billion-dollar idea while floating down the river on an inner tube than while sitting in your vacation cabin talking on your cell phone or answering emails on your laptop.
I dare you…see if you can take a real, old-fashioned vacation this summer. Your family will love you for it, and your business associates, clients, and staff will manage just fine.