We Americans can be a bit ridiculous. I’m not talking about politics; I’m talking about vacations, or “holidays” to the rest of the world. We don’t take enough time off. And when we do, we bring our laptops. We have to have WiFi. We check email and voicemail every day. We never really power down. Sound familiar? The downside is that you’re missing out on a real opportunity to power down, spend quality time with family and friends, and clear your mind on vacation.
Think about this: In a survey of 1,000 entrepreneurs, 20% said they thought up creative new ideas during their vacations. And one of those entrepreneurs was Kevin Systrom, the founder of Instagram. He came up with the idea for the photo-sharing site while on a beach in Mexico.
The bottom line is that when we’re on vacation, we actually (finally) give our minds permission to roam. Here are three simple ways you can clear your mind on vacation.
Many of my past vacations were interrupted by sales reps or customers. But I can only think of one instance when they really needed me due to a time-sensitive issue. All the other times, the work could have waited. Work will always be there, don’t worry. Make sure you and your colleagues have some perspective of what’s truly urgent and what isn’t. After all, if you’re in sales, you’re most likely not dealing with nuclear weapons.
Set boundaries on any commitment to doing certain work during your vacation. It’s your time. Let colleagues and customers know your vacation dates, and stress that your accessibility will be limited. Sure, you’ll peek at emails, and if there is a real crisis, you’ll do a 15-minute call. Other than that? It will have to wait.
During my vacation this summer, I saw many other vacationers gathered at WiFi spots to do work, often in the early mornings before their family members awoke. But I left my computer at home and it felt great. I admit I checked emails on my phone once a day, but just to peek. I did not reply to anything that was not truly urgent. So if you can, leave your computer at home.
I believe Americans are the worst at taking their paid vacation time. A recent travel industry survey said that Americans took 16.2 vacation days in 2015, and 55% left vacation days unused. The grand total of those unused days? 658 million. Yikes.
So step back from work for at least week, maybe two. And spend 110% of that time with your family. Clear your mind on vacation, and get out of those weeds. When you come back, you’ll have a fresher perspective. And who knows – maybe your wandering mind will come up with a million-dollar idea.