Sunday, July 25, 2010

"Vacation used to be a luxury....

... however, in today's world, it has become a necessity." Unknown

Today, I’m wrapping up my vacation and tomorrow I head back to work. I’ll pay for being gone. When I left the office, I managed to get my e-mail inbox down to zero – it won’t be zero now and it will be a while before I’m caught up. There are some tasks that I let sit for two weeks and I’ll need to get started on them again. I know I have a workshop to lead on Tuesday and a committee meeting on Monday in addition to regular meetings so there will be no easing back into the action when I return.

That’s not meant to be a list of complaints; it’s just the reality of taking time away from a busy job. As a result, many people choose not to take vacation or they only take little bits of time away. Then even when they are away from the job, they spend time answering e-mail and working on projects - not much of a break. People in leadership positions are particularly prone to this behavior. After all if they are gone, someone else must pick up the work and keep things going. This can create one of two worries – either we worry that the work won’t get done right without us or we learn that we aren’t indispensible. It’s hard to know which worry is scarier, so some people worry about both!

Yet the reality is that we all need time away and perhaps effective leaders need the time away more than most. Have you ever been frustrated working on a jigsaw puzzle? Then you get up and walk away for a while and when you come back not only do you find the piece immediately, you can work a large section quickly. It also works with crossword puzzles and anytime you are stuck in a project. Time away, no matter what you do with it, refreshes your vision, your ideas, and your perspective in many ways.

Think for a moment about the word ‘recreation.’ One dictionary defines it as ‘refreshment of one's mind or body after work, through activity that amuses or stimulates’; another defines it as ‘refreshment of health or spirits by relaxation and enjoyment’. But there’s a third way to think about it. When you split the word it becomes re-creation meaning re-newal. And that’s the most important reason to take vacation. It may be hard to get away, it may be hard work when you come back, but to continuing being effective creative leaders, we need to take a break – a real one – and come back renewed and refreshed and ready to do our best work. Vacation as a leadership skill - who knew?

Take care,


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