Taking a vacation

by Admin
Updated: June 16, 2018

How taking a vacation can be a matter of urgent business strategy by preventing burnout

Take a vacation before you burn out. Recognize the signs and go before you fall down and mess things up. The signs include fatigue, sickness and depression in that order. The type of vacation that will fix this is minimal - not active, not expensive - but it does need to take you far away last long enough to be effective.

A few years ago, I brought in management consultants.

I had been working very hard for several years to develop my business but growth had stalled and every day seemed to bring more problems than solutions.

Being the sort of person who takes pride in solving my own problems myself, I was very frustrated and the decision to bring the consultants in was not an easy one - I felt like I was somehow failing and this seemed like admitting it.

The main advantage of consultants, of course, is objectivity and I’ve since been a consultant to other businesses myself. Their review of my business plans and everything I was doing was very positive - as I’d hoped/expected - so what was to be done?

Their conclusion was that I was approaching burnout and advised me to consider taking a vacation... as a matter of urgent business strategy. What an idea!

Two weeks later I was on a plane to the islands.

The one decision you dare not take

As a business owner you call all the shots and the buck stops with you. You can take pride in being a good manager and telling your staff to take a break when you can see they need to. But when you take responsibility for everything the one thing you think you cannot do is take time off yourself.

What I’d needed from the management consultants was not business advice but external authority: Hey, they have all these qualification and they told me I have to do this.

The type of vacation to take

No fun: No distractions. This is about recovery - it’s an inside job.

I like having fun, but for the purposes of this exercise I got a one-room villa on the beach in a place where there were a handful of places to eat and nothing much else. Once there, it was a matter of only resting and eating & drinking until it was time to leave.

Cheap: No pressure to pay for or justify an expensive trip.

Because I had nothing to do and local food & accommodation was cheap, the entire vacation cost me less than $1,000 including flights.

Relaxing: No itinerary (as in no need to know what time it is).

I got to the villa mid-afternoon and fell asleep. I slept all afternoon, all night and all the next day. I had a late dinner, slept all night and half the morning.

For the following days, I’d wake up late morning, lounge around at the beach, drink beer all day, sleep for a couple of hours before having a late dinner.

Interestingly, doing nothing was incredibly refreshing but not sustainable. By the end of my stay I was spending my day making notes and looking forward to being back at work.

Disconnected: No, don’t go off-grid - that’s a silly idea. You need to be reachable (and able to reach out) in an emergency. You simply need to be left alone unless it really is an emergency.

This is an opportunity to entrust your staff with the day-to-day admin for a short time and see how the momentum you’ve built up carries everything along.

If things go well, it’s great positive reinforcement for your staff. If things go a little wonky, it proves how essential you are. Either way, it’s a win.

How to know if you need a vacation like this

I’ve identified three stages that warn me I need to prevent burnout by taking action (a vacation):

  1. Fatigue
  2. Sickness
  3. Depression

#1: Being tired is normal, chronic fatigue - feeling tired all the time - is your body’s way of telling you to lighten up. Pushing through leads to sickness...

#2: Maybe fatigue makes your immune system less effective so you catch a cold. If you don’t normally catch colds this is probably a warning sign. If you start to get symptoms but aren’t actually sick (what happens to me) this is your body trying to take away your ability to keep working. Pushing through leads to depression...

#3: You are the boss and you are tough. Weakness will not stop you but maybe it’s all meaningless, pointless, hopeless... I think this is your body trying to take away your motivation so you’ll get some sleep. Pushing through leads to... probably something more serious - let’s not get this far.

Long term benefits of a restorative vacation

Not having anything to do made the vacation seem very long. The repetition of the few simple things I did each day (sleep, drink, eat, repeat) has made it endure in my memory to the extent that any time I recall it I feel better. It was a good investment.

More info

Finding management consultants who are right for you can be a complex process. An essential resource is IMC USA and you can find a certified consultant through them (although I can’t guarantee they’ll recommend you take a vacation).

Psychology Today has an article, The Tell Tale Signs of Burnout broadly in line with my 3 stages.

How to Recognize the Signs of Burnout Before You’re Burned Out (lifehacker.com) is probably more relevant for employees.

Taking off for an inexpensive restorative vacation is easy if you know what you’re doing or if you have no clue (the power of naivety). Otherwise, be prepared to spend some time learning (preferably from people who aren’t trying to sell you something). The Thorn Tree forum (Lonely Planet community) is a great place to start.

Internal links

The focus dilemma Doing nothing No regrets All articles
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