It goes beyond simply unplugging.
You are desperate to get away. The overbearing boss, the high maintenance client, your triple-digit inbox notifications, and too many hours of CNN have you in a funk.
Or maybe it’s worse than a funk — You’ve conjured up an image of yourself walking around with your hair on fire, and you’re telling yourself that if you could just get to that beach, you could dunk your head into the cool water and ffffshzzzzz. It would all go away in an instant.
Or would it?
You can put that auto-responder on your emails and clear your schedule of meetings, but all that really does is push the stress to the side. The Monday after your getaway, you return to find the same amount of things on your to-do list, simply moved to the next week on the calendar.
But what if there were another way to think about your vacation? What if it became an opportunity to shift your mindset so profoundly that your new feelings went home with you and lasted even longer than your tan?
Recently, my business partner (and podcast co-host) Rachel Bellow and I set out to explore our theory about this “new way to vacation” and share what we learned with our listeners. Yes, it was a tough assignment, but we were willing to make the sacrifice.
So, for the first time in the 18 years of our business partnership and friendship, we planned a four-day vacation from work, together, in order to test our “rethinking the vacation” hypothesis.
(If you want the play-by-play discussion of how we did it, listen to the two podcasts we recorded during the process: one before we left and one that includes recordings from the vacation as well as our “post-game analysis” from after we returned. You can listen to the first episode here, and the second episode here.)
Our hypothesis was a departure from your typical unplug and leave-it-all-behind vacation mentality. Instead, it was setting the intention of your vacation as a time to go deeper into the issues you care most about at home, and even at work.
The idea is to return from vacation more refreshed and clearer about what you really want and how to get there, resulting in a more sustained experience, rather than one that only exists a few days each year.
Your vacation can be a time to recognize what is holding you back from achieving a more fulfilling life. You can take advantage of a new setting — or even just being on a different schedule while staying at home — to have the kinds of conversations (with yourself or those you love) that we all desperately need, but rarely have the time to explore. It’s like treating your thoughts as if they have a longer wavelength.
Interested? Here’s how to apply this theory to your next vacation:
Focus on “Wants” Versus “Shoulds”
The mantra to set for this vacation is to spend time on what you want to do, rather than on what you think you need to do or should do. This mindset shift in and of itself is the key to making any day (or weekend) feel like a vacation.
Stay off Email for a Purpose
Don’t give yourself (or your partner or spouse) points just for unplugging while you’re away. Make your screen break more than just a chance to “check out” from the office. Unplugging should enable you to create the kind of sacred time and space you need to think about the important aspects of your life that don’t get enough attention day-to-day.
Have a Goal for the Vacation
Just like you set an intention for your yoga practice, the sustainable vacation requires goal setting as well. The goal should be about your deep ambitions — what you want for yourself at work and at home.
A goal might be, “Figure out what it is I’m really doing at work when I’m [x],” or “Try to establish a morning routine that will help me start the day more refreshed.”
Disrupt a Bad Habit
Vacation is a great time to try to change a habit since you are already mixing up your routine.
But, given that you will likely indulge yourself a bit while on vacation, choose just one thing to give up — or simply identify a gear you want to shift in your life. It could be your social media addiction, your bedtime, or your habit of drinking two glasses of wine each afternoon. Use the vacation to disrupt your usual behaviors and focus on how you can integrate the new approach into your routine at home.
How We Did
Rachel and I used all of these methods throughout our four-day vacation. Some were harder to accomplish than others, but for the most part, we stuck to the program.
You can listen to our podcast for more. But the bottom line is that we have never felt this refreshed after taking time off — never. And it had nothing to do with the amount of time, (just four days) or the setting, (though being in nature positively affects your psyche).
We are truly convinced that our “rethinking the vacation” hypothesis led to the result we both wanted and needed: an experience that would make us live our lives better when we were not on vacation, rather than leaving all those good feelings behind until the next one.