Friday, July 15, 2011

12 Reasons to take time off

Jeannie Walters is the founder of 360Connext, a Chicago-based consulting firm specializing in the cornerstones of customer experience: customer engagement, employee engagement, and connections like social media. She is a board member of the Chicago chapter of the Social Media Club and a member of Faith Popcorn’s Talent Bank, a group of experts tapped for trend-setting information.

It’s that time of year, and many of us are taking some time to recharge and rest up. I have become a believer in the necessity. I used to work, work, and work some more and basically complain to anyone who would listen that I couldn’t take time off.

Looking back, it was a fool’s game. Without time off, you miss out on some of your best “work.”

I’m heading to a week of vacation soon and thought it was a good time to discuss the lessons I’ve learned from dedicating myself to finding time for vacation each year.

No. Matter. What.

Here are the 12 most important reasons to take time off:

1. Your loved ones, remember them?

It’s easy in this 24/7, constantly connected world to work too much. Even when we’re not working, we’re still checking email, sharing blogs on Twitter, and essentially leaving half our brains with our work. Taking some time off with people you care about (and focusing on those in-the-moment times) reminds you why they’re your loved ones. They matter more than anything.

2. This is your brain on vacation.

I’ve found it takes a few days to shut off the manic, ever-present and ever-busy chatter in my head. The “OMG I forgot to do xyz” or the “If I don’t find time to do xyz, my business will never be what I want it to be” drifts away after the third day. I’ve found I focus on amazing things like hummingbirds, novels, and hearing myself belly-laugh in a way that’s been gone for a while.

3. The unbearable lightness of being unscheduled

I go out of my way to not have too much of a plan on vacation. The decadence of enjoying a second cup of coffee while still not having a clue what the day holds is something rare and sacred. My body lets go of the tension that I carry around in my neck and shoulders the 51 other weeks of the year.

4. The realization that life/work/committees go on without you.

We all love to make ourselves a little too important. How can our businesses, our organizations, or the PTA go on without us? Take a week away, and it becomes crystal clear. Not only can they go on, but they should. Take that, Ego.

5. Creative inspiration when you least expect it.

Gaze at the mountains, study the waves, or take in the view from a hammock; you’ll be amazed at what comes to you.

6. Discovery, discovery, discovery.

I like all types of vacations—adventuring, exploring new places, and relaxing with nothing to do. Whichever kind you take, you’re bound to discover something new. A small town in Michigan might bring you a new favorite beer discovery. A tour of Europe might lead you to a new favorite artist. Whatever it is, never stop discovering. It’s good for your whole being. Vacation helps you do that.

7. Time away helps clients, employees, bosses ,and others appreciate you more.

It’s not easy to tell someone you’ll be “offline” for any amount of time, especially if it’s saying it to the demanding boss or client. Doing it, however, makes them respect the time you give them and the value you bring even more. Living without you for a week could be just what they need.

8. Respect yourself.

The very act of saying, “I’m away, and I’m not working for you during this time,” helps set boundaries. Not only do demanding clients and bosses need this, but you do, too. Valuing yourself enough to say, “I deserve a vacation,” does wonders for self-respect. And, that, my friend, is priceless.

9. Find out how the other half live.

Those of us who check blogs daily, tweet like it’s life support, and write blogs as part of our living begin to think everyone lives like this. News flash: Most of them don’t. They run quaint art galleries without Web sites, they serve coffee in small ceramic cups, they sell bait, and some even whittle. Meet your global neighbors.

10. Disconnect to reenergize.

It’s difficult. Believe me, I know. But disconnecting from email, texts, tweets, and check-ins creates this magical space to just be. Let it happen. Connect with what’s right in front of you. Be. There.

11. Follow fewer rules to really expand your mind.

Rules are all around us. Blog on Mondays. Laundry every Friday. Don’t be a minute late to pick-up at camp. All of these things are important, but on vacation you can toss most rules out the window. This type of magic allows you to return looking at the world with a wider lens. If you didn’t have rules, what could you accomplish? It’s exciting to test it out.

12. Find your smile.

I’m lucky because I love what I do. But I have bad days. I have busy days and weeks. I have frustrating relationships with technology. Just because I love it doesn’t mean I skip through every day with a song in my heart and a smile on my face. Vacation, if I follow the first 11 ideas, helps me find the smile that is in there all the time. I think I smile a lot anyway, but on vacation, I find my inner smiles in ways that support every other aspect of me.

Enjoy your vacation. Don’t worry about sending postcards—much less posting smartphone photos to Facebook. We’ll just catch up when you get back.