Maybe when discussing the prospect of taking a vacation, you list off the excuses:
- I’m too busy to take a vacation.
- Vacations are too expensive.
- I’m doing okay as it is and don’t need one.
- I’m behind as it is and can’t take a vacation.
… And so on. But the reality is that these are byproducts of short-term planning and a self-assigned level of self-importance to a company. Narcissism, really.
For me, not only was a vacation a moment to unplug from the fast-paced world of the tech industry, but it was a moment to assert self-control and discipline in my work. Nobody controls your availability — you do. You decide what is important and the moment you feel like you lost control, it’s hard to take it back.
If you haven’t taken a meaningful vacation (or staycation) in the past six months, you are doing it wrong. Many companies, like my employer, Infusionsoft, encourage its employees to maintain a work-life balance and offer up vacation time instantly for newly-hired employees and favorable ramp-up time off for veterans. If you’re an entrepreneur and have literally sacrificed your nights and weekends for working, you might want to assess why you even wanted to become an entrepreneur and see if that aligns with what you’re doing.
So, here’s how I was able to successfully take a vacation without much heartache, regret or unfavorable outcomes:
- I hustled. The weeks leading up to my time off, I was strategically focused to get out the big projects and important meetings out of the way. Some might say that this level of work outweighs a vacation, but ultimately, it minimizes the guilt that some might have in ditching their work later.
- I communicated. I was able to tell my peers when I would be out and set the expectation that they can contact me, but only for emergencies and in that case to expect a significant delay.
- I blocked out time in my calendar. This serves a dual purpose in that it is full-disclosure into the fact that I am ‘out of the office’ and the fact that new meetings would be rejected if they wanted to make one in my absence.
- I didn’t bother with an OOTO email message. These are boring and don’t change people’s expectations of a reply. Since I communicated in-person to the people close to my role, I figured they’d have things covered on their end. It’s my belief that email is not text messaging or instant messaging; it is meant to be just a little faster than snail mail.
- I disabled Exchange Sync on my phone. Nothing is more disruptive than when you are attached to a long email string and the psychological response of FOMO takes effect. This allowed me to focus on the time away from work and be able to live in the moment of my current reality.
- I tended to work on a prescribed basis. It wasn’t that I was completely untouchable. I told myself (and others) that I’d check once a night or morning. In doing so, I couldn’t resist making use of my Delete / Defer activities items on email. This gave me satisfaction that my inbox was clear every day. This also made my Monday morning much more pleasant. Out of a whole week, I maybe spent up to 45 minutes ‘working’ but I never really felt it.
I had a great time and didn’t find myself thinking about work, even though I love what I do. The outcome of all this was that I was able to free my mind a bit, do some good thinking, unleash more of my creativity and come back recharged and ready to take on more challenges.
Regarding one of my excuses — the price/cost of a vacation. It wasn’t much. I split a room at a beach resort with three people and my share was under $300. There are plenty of things to do that are fun, accessible and affordable if you just look around for it. Oh, and we also drove a Prius, so that did help to deflect some of the costs of gas.
And one of the things I thought about is the philosophical differences in how the Western cultures think about working versus Eastern cultures. I think we have been brought up with the “idea” that we should work to live, but the reality is that many of us in the tech industry have become accustomed to living to work. A vacation allows you to balance that equation.
Take a vacation. It’s the very reason why your employer provides vacation time. Use it. Don’t worry about “rolling it over” because that’s a penniless outcome. You’ll thank yourself later for it.