Before heading out a recent vacation, I was stressed and concerned that I was leaving at the worst possible time. There was so much in flux. Projects that were scheduled to launch had not happened, projects that weren’t even on the horizon suddenly landed on the immediate to-do list and long-term projects I did know about took on an unanticipated urgency.
Unfortunately I think these feelings get heightened working in communications, a 24/7 profession that thrives on a high commitment to work, real-time response and the belief that if it doesn’t happen now, you will have missed the moment.
That may be true, but it doesn’t mean that I have to be the one to do it. So while I had real doubts about whether it was a good time for me to get away, now squarely on the other side of vacation, I can say with great confidence that there are benefits not only to going on vacation, but to leaving things undone. To walking away midstream and seeking a breath of fresh air.
How else are you going to get and bring back the needed perspective? Vacation gives you an opportunity to refresh and then take your fresh perspective and reframe. Going away gives you an opportunity to shut off. Look around. Take in the world around you. Sleep. Be somewhere unfamiliar. Feel like a small piece of a much bigger world. And all of these things give you a new or different perspective.
I have found that you also bring back a renewed sense of you. When you’re relaxed and on vacation, chances are you’re doing things you love and spending time with people you enjoy. That combination tends to bring out the best in people. When I’m on vacation, I remember I’m funny, I remember to laugh. I remember how much I love music and how in awe I am of nature (a topic for another day). All of these things help me to bring all of me back to work – I arrive with a renewed sense of purpose, a new outlook, a ton of ideas and perhaps even as a better communicator.
Taking time off can give others the opportunity to grow and sends a signal to your team that you trust your group to get things done in your absence. Empower your team members to step up and take on stretch assignments, work more directly with leadership and make decisions they’d normally not get to make (or perhaps wouldn’t make) without checking with you first. Odd as it may sound, it also may remind people of the value you bring, give others an opportunity to miss you.
Have you ever been on a plane, looked down and noticed how planned a city looks from above but when you are on the ground, in it, it can feel chaotic and random? Vacation can give us the opportunity to take a step back and gain the distance we need to see what is working and what isn’t. By stepping away, you’ll have the opportunity to think about what needs to change and come back with the energy to change it! What a gift that is.
It’s also important to remember, while your work may be critical to the organization, so is your mental, emotional and physical health. You are serving the organization by investing in yourself and taking a much-needed break. In public relations, many of the skills we use every day – pinpointing insights, thinking strategically, developing ideas – require that we stay fresh, and to do so you have to commit to taking the time to rejuvenate.
Finally, going on vacation gives others permission to take time off. We work hard. Maybe even too hard. To keep up that pace and bring depth of thinking and quality to our work, we all need to unplug and recharge our energy sources. Taking vacation – and letting your team or those around you know you enjoyed it – shows true leadership. It signals that there is value in taking time off.
So when I head off on my next vacation I am going to try to think of it as doing my duty – to gain the perspective I need, to revitalize my energy and to show those around me that I mean what I say. Go take that breath of fresh air.