Last month, in an effort to beat the winter blues (and grey Ohio skies) our family went on a cruise. It was great. The warm temperatures and change of scenery felt great. I thought they might.
What I didn’t expect was a productivity boost. Sure I was recharged, but that wasn’t the biggest thing. Rather, it was that I unplugged when I left, and then had to plug back in.
Before leaving, I did enough work to provide a two day buffer when we returned. As Mike Vardy wrote in his email newsletter.
If you can create gap days on either side of your time off, do it. By simply blocking out that time as unavailable, it gives me the peace of mind I need to return to my regular workflow. I also return with less stress and effort. I’m certain it will do the same for you.
What Mike articulated above is something I did by accident. My trip was before Mike’s, but the buffer was paramount as it gave me time to opt back into my work.
Let me explain. In life, there are a lot of routines we follow, often without acknowledgement. From morning routines to white picket fences, we all have some benchmark for what is “normal.” Any break in the routine – like a vacation – is an chance to reevaluate the usefulness of these benchmarks.
Returning from vacation provided me a chance to look at the invisible scripts in my life. These are the things I thought were normal, my default choices. Here are some things I learned.
I didn’t miss Twitter. My greatest FOMO is not being plugged into Twitter. After reading Cal Newport’s Deep Work – which I reviewed here – and reading that how Design Partner at Google Ventures Jake Knapp works, I felt better about unplugging. After vacation I was convinced and deleted the app.
I missed my schedule. My work days have a pattern, and that pattern is gold for me. I need routine. Wake up, pour coffee, read, write, rinse, repeat. It’s comfortable and it’s what works best for me. On vacation I didn’t need to work, but I did see how valuable the process of work was.
I noticed that levels of input and output require balance. I’m a creator. Whether it’s blog posts, e-books, or podcasts, I like to make things. Those things aren’t created ex nihilo. Rather, I’m like the cook who enters a pantry and makes dinner with whatever is on hand. Vacation was entirely input time, and that wasn’t good. I need more of a healthy balance. I like to read, write, and then listen to a podcast. And then I write some more.
Routines are good, but we should question them. While on vacation, I had the opportunity to swim with sea turtles. I found out that sea turtles eat underwater for ten minutes and then surface for air. My routines, my habits, my normal life should be the same. Do the work for a while, then come up for air. If Mike Vardy hadn’t questioned his routines, The NOW Year would never have been created. Vacation was a system refresh for me. It was a chance to re-subscribe.
But you don’t have to take a vacation to have a system refresh; maybe you just need to take an afternoon off or to spend a few minutes in silence. Take a walk. The opportunities are endless. How do you recharge your batteries? Share your thought in the comments.