I write quite a bit about work-life balance and the necessity and value of switching off at regular times and to not be “always on”. So it may seem odd that I am now writing about working when you’re on holiday. I’m not talking about checking emails though – that isn’t work! We should definitely be unplugging as much as possibly when on holiday. This “checking in” business really isn’t necessary – it may help you de-stress, but if you’re unlucky, it can stress you out more and compel you to waste your entire day online solving some crisis. Putting on that auto-responder so that you can go away for a rest and time with loved ones or doing something you enjoy is really important. If you cave in just once and start answering emails whilst you are away, it sets the precedent that your colleagues and clients can bother you at any time during your precious, hard-earned time off. And they will. Subscribe to the anti-Nike advice: Just don’t do it.
So what do I mean then by the concept of working on holiday? I think there is truly valuable work which can be achieved on holiday. Being away from the workplace helps you to mentally and spiritually recharge returning with renewed energy, ideas and focus. If you constantly are checking back in, this recharge never gets to happen because your brain is firmly wired in to every-day work and email dopamine loops. So key to achieving valuable work on holiday is planning ahead, delegating projects, preparing your clients and colleagues for the dates you’ll be away and taking as little work “hardware” with you as possible. One thing I did recently which has truly rejuvenated my energy and productivity is to remove email from my Smartphone and tablet completely – that way I never feel tempted to check it. Nothing has been lost by doing this – on the contrary I am more efficient and deal with emails much more effectively.
This is how to work on holiday – whether home or abroad:
Take a notebook with you – use this to write in every day. Yes, every day – just write and see what comes out. You will find that solutions to problems that may have been unachievable back at work emerge, you’ll get new ideas and a fresh perspective. Choose to write about work!
Take colouring pencils – get a little mindfulness colouring book and start colouring. This helps your brain to switch off very fast and tap into calm because it turns down the part of the brain that controls our fight or flight response, and keeps us in a state of alert (which unfortunately it is likely to be most of the time when we’re at work). Allowing your brain to relax allows it to be much more resourceful. Colouring also utilises areas of the brain that enhance focus and concentration. It also helps with problem solving and organisational skills.
Sort out files – if you do take your laptop with you – or if you plan to, as I am to take some time off to be at home as well as away – then take this opportunity to thoroughly sort out your files and systems. This is the kind of work we never have time for day-to-day yet is important for creating order and flow.
Go for walks – being out and about in the fresh air is one of the best things you can do to be more effective at work! This is one thing you just may start to incorporate into your daily work routine. Imagine having walking meetings! Take time to walk and to notice what is around you. The ability to focus is a number one skill and one we are rapidly losing. Tap back into this skill and watch how resourceful you become, how much more relaxed and creative.
Have conversations – don’t be tempted to Google everything. Practise having conversations where you slowly debate and chew over something rather than immediately Googling for a quick fix. Our Smartphone are fast becoming an appendage and lessening that dependency for short periods whilst you are away from work cannot be a bad thing.
Read that map! – Once upon a time, before there was such a thing as a local data plan, there were maps, guidebooks, notes, and even human beings who could interact and share information. These resources still exist. The problem with compulsive app-ing is that it chips away at the very thing that makes travel rewarding: a sense of engagement and discovery. Since it’s difficult to discover something when Google knows everything, a smartphone can at times wreck the qualities of communication, intuition, and experimentation that travel rewards. Not that technology should be left at home, but it should be considered a controlled substance on the road—a problem-solving tool but not a constant companion.
Have fun this summer – this will be my last blog until September when we’ll continue the A-Z of happiness.