As a young professional, I used to dread vacation. To me, it either meant that 1) I was going to spend a whole week making absolutely no progress or 2) I’d have a massive amount of catching up to do the moment I came back from the trip. How could I relax knowing that?!
If I was “forced” to take a vacation because it was a holiday and no one else was working, I’d begrudgingly take time off and spend most of my days pacing around the house like a nervous animal, planning my next move once the “stupid vacation” was over! Ah, the ignorance.
Like many overzealous young entrepreneurs, I eventually became burned out (of course) and had no choice but to embrace vacation. Turns out, it actually made me better at my job.
Ambition and drive are both crucial to being successful, but we have to look at the long-term effects of too little sleep, too much coffee, and not enough new inspiration. It’s so common for us to have those moments at work when we’re wracking our brain to come up with a solution to a specific problem and it’s just not coming; then we go home and hop in the shower and (AHA!) we’ve figured it out. Our brain just needed to relax a bit.
In my experience, vacations can actually safeguard against creative block, improve skills, and invigorate a new enthusiasm for projects. Here are a few things I highly recommend the next time you decide to take some well-deserved R&R.
1. Play games.
Games can strengthen your strategic brain and memory–AND they’re fun! My favorites are chess and Rummy 500. You can play while relaxing on a beach, chilling out in the woods, or hanging inside. All you need is a worthy opponent!
2. Create something.
If you are a business owner, chances are you have to interact with designers in some capacity. Have you ever looked at your new website and told the designer ‘it’s all wrong,’ but couldn’t articulate why? It’s a frustrating situation.
Exploring creative endeavors yourself can help better understand them. On vacation, I like to zone out and draw–whether it’s something in my mind’s eye (dinosaurs eating tacos) or whatever is in front of me (leathery old men laying out in the sun).
Silly, yes, but through this, I’ve learned what colors I like, why things look better in a certain place, and how to find the emotional gravity in images. I have to work with designers quite a bit, so this practice has been so helpful in allowing me to relay what I want for professional designs. I highly recommend you try it–though you might get hooked!
3. Get a new perspective.
In business, we constantly have to see the perspectives of people that don’t necessarily think the way we do–whether this is working on a diverse team or developing a product for a certain demographic. To be successful in business (and in life!), it’s imperative that we open our minds to multiple points of view.
Through travel, we can meet people from all walks of life and better understand the way they live. The more people we connect with, the easier it is to put ourselves in the shoes of others. If you are vacationing in a new country, hang out with the locals and learn something new! You may also try logging your findings in a journal, so you can refer to it later.
On your vacation this year, try engaging in an activity that allows you to think freely and loosely. I like fishing because the sights and sounds are so soothing and I tend to get my best ideas out on the water. One of the hazards is forgetting your ideas when you’ve gone back to “reality,” so always have a notebook handy in case you need to write down your thoughts.
5. Challenge yourself.
A few years ago, I went on my first snowboarding vacation. For the first day, I was terrified of taking a huge fall and slowly made my way down the bunny slopes. It was okay, but not awesome. Then my boyfriend challenged me to try the intermediate slopes. So I did.
I don’t know what clicked, but I flew down the hill at lightning speed and was having so much fun, I forgot I was scared. Then I hit a pile of snow and took a huge, embarrassing, bone-wrenching fall. The thing I was most afraid of had HAPPENED….
…and you know, it really wasn’t that bad. In fact, it was empowering!
Whenever I’m nervous to make business decisions because I’m afraid of a certain outcome, I remind myself of that snowboarding lesson. Sometimes we build fears up so much in our minds that they handicap us. It’s so freeing to know that something bad might happen, and not only are we going to survive–we’re going to be better than we were before.
These are little tricks that work for me, but if any of you reading have some of your own–please share (I’m off to the Bahamas soon and could use a few more tips)! Wishing you all a summer of wonderful memories and priceless growth. Have fun!