WHY A VACATION CAN ADVANCE YOUR CAREER
It’s only when I’m actually on vacation that I find myself thinking, “I really believe in vacations!” Sure, I’m excited beforehand, but it’s only when I’m actually there that I realize just how much I needed it and how much better I’ll be when back at work for having taken some time off.
Research shows that professional success is not just about time management, it’s also about energy management. Vacations help us in this area – restoring and rejuvenating our energy levels so we can come back to work rested, refreshed and once again put our best foot forward. This is true physically, psychologically and mentally. We need a rest in all these areas. But vacations help us in other ways too and over the long run can play a role in how far we get in our career. Here are five reasons why a vacation can advance your career.
It’s a window to be intentional again. We get so caught up at work, responding and reacting to the many things going on, that it’s easy to just do. But the best leaders and professionals are intentional about who they want to be, how they show up. Simply ask yourself, “If someone I work with was asked by another to describe me, what would I want him/her to say?” Hopefully it’s not too far off how they would describe us now. But while away from the tasks of work, a vacation is a great time to press the restart button on the type of leader or colleague that you choose to be.
It’s a chance to re-frame. If you’ve been through a particularly challenging season at work, where pressure, uncertainty or strained relationships have led to stress or anxiety, a vacation presents an opportunity to “re-frame”. We aren’t always in control of our situation but we are in control of how we interpret meaning in that situation. Re-framing or “reappraisal” is shown in neuropsychological research to have powerful benefits. We don’t have to be on vacation to do this, and certainly should implement it as a regular habit. But a vacation can present a powerful window to rethink how we see or interpret a challenging situation or relationship while we’re away from it. It can equip us to make better choices about how we proactively address that situation when back at work.
Our brains can generate some of our best ideas. In the day-to-day of work it can be difficult to come up with great ideas. I’m not saying to take work with you on vacation (quite the opposite) but in the same way that people can have “great ideas in the shower”, when you’re on the beach or walking that trail, ideas about how to move your work forward are likely to pop into your head as if from nowhere. When we’re engaging in “sensory thinking” (being truly in the moment as compared to the forward-thinking we’re usually doing at work) our brain generates different kinds of insights. Often these ideas about work that come when we’re away from work are powerful connections, strategic insights and potential game-changers.
We can create more space in our diary for our return. Delegating is hard. It’s such a common word at work but in reality it’s hard to do in practice in a meaningful and expansive way. To move forward we need to not just increase our own capacity but also increase the capacity of others. We can delegate “easy” things, but it’s often easier to just get the complex or important things done ourselves. After all, we do it faster and better – but that’s why someone is typically in the position to delegate. A vacation can force us into delegating those things that we normally do but we know that really we should be handing over. It means we need to not only plan our time away but also purposefully develop others beforehand to take over the reigns. Plan to not take everything back when you return from vacation. Use this window to see what responsibilities you can hand over more permanently, to free up your time for other areas of the business.
You get to test the real strength of your team. David, a senior professional at a law firm was organizing their annual global partners conference. With 400 partners flying in to London, it was a huge responsibility and potentially a career differentiator for David. I was asked to be one of the speakers and was astounded when David told me in the lead up to the conference he would be on vacation for three weeks! I couldn’t believe it. A few days maybe, one week manageable, but three weeks, really? David knew and trusted the strength of his team. The conference was a huge success and the year long planning he had made not only to organize it but to build his team paid off. On leadership programs, I often notice the more senior the participants, the less they are on their cell phones and checking email. The best leaders know the strength of their team and can take a few days out without needing to “check in”. A vacation can be a great test to see whether our team is as strong as it can be, operating without us. And if the world, or a small part of it, does fall over while we’re not there, it’s a good sign of where we should focus before our next vacation.
If you haven’t planned one yet, it might be time to put some time off in the diary. And if you’re heading off on vacation soon, happy holidays. Enjoy the time away from work knowing it might just be the very thing your career needs.