It is August and in many parts of the world, it is all but impossible to have a team meeting, get project status or launch a new initiative becasue so many people are on holiday. Every culture is different in their relationship to time off- both by country and by organization. And of course, we have the technology to be in touch 24/7 even when we are supposed to be on holiday.
The abstract difference between knowing the importance of checking out, de-stressing and recharging our batteries, and the real concerns over what is piling up back at the office can make holiday time very difficult. I committed to myself this year that I would actually be on holiday while I am on holiday. In working with clients who were also preparing for summer travel, we came up with a pretty good set of simple guidelines.
Be clear and honest with yourself and others. I have been clear with everyone that short of something being on fire, I will not respond until the 13th when I return. My admin does not see my mail, so my first line is to send people to her (email and voice mail messages) and trust her to call only if absolutely necessary. But “clear and honest” also means clear and honest with myself. I have to be willing to get over the belief that the world will come to an end if I do not immediately respond to every note and request.
Understand what is work and what is not. Sometimes, part of what may be work is actually emotionally and spiritually rewarding. I am likely to write a good bit on holiday. I will also likely chip in a blog post or two- since I love the process of sharing observations and will likely find many opportunities (Look for a first example from a lunch in Chicago queued up for early next week). Those are agreements I have made with myself, my wife and my colleagues. The challenge is not to try to convince myself that working on that ROI analysis is really about personal rest and recharge.
Set clear expectations. Everyone’s work situation is different. Ideally, we would all get several weeks without connecting to or hearing from the office- but even for the most fastidious of us- that may simply not be practical. So clear expectations help keep the fuzziness down. For instance, I will check email once a day while on holiday. Anything that needs attention I will send to someone else for action. I will carry my phone since I need it for mapping, tee times and restaurant reservations- but business calls will be forwarded for screening. Clients, colleagues and even prospects understand that I will not respond except through my admin who can sort almost anything that needs sorting.
So- what is your relationship to holiday time? Almost all companies have a policy- but they also have a culture and the two are often not aligned. I have launched a new poll to see what visitors here have to say about vacation culture in their organizations; and, I posted the first response as well. I take 2-3 days several times a year to get lost in the woods- no phone, no email, no communication wtih anyone.
How about you? Are you getting recharged this summer? If you need a reminder about the importance of time off, vistit Tony Schwartz’ website here.