Steve, a new coaching client, was exhausted. He’d been working more than 14 hour days for months on end – no vacations, limited personal interests, and few social engagements – while launching his own business. In the clichéd tradition of bootstrapping, Steve was doing it all.
Intellectually, he knew it was time to slow down. He’d made some good hires and even began handing off projects, but he still felt the competing demand to remain involved in most every aspect. To fight the mounting fatigue, he began working out regularly six months ago – ironically sacrificing personal time (often his sleep time) as opposed to work time – effectively taking on even more.
Physically Steve was fine – good diet, good energy – but still things continued to slip. Despite the desire and long hours, his productivity was diminishing. He didn’t feel “stressed” but he knew something was amiss. “I’ve been there too,” a respected, successful friend of Steve’s told him. “What you need is good coach.” – and so Steve landed at my door.
Steve (who gave me permission to use his story) had fallen into the trap of overdoing it. It’s easy to do. Our visions are great but resources (capital, time, energy, etc.) are tight. Making matters worse, we have these folk-hero-like entrepreneurs who are celebrated for wearing multiple hats and logging numerous hours. Yet often, we don’t tell the whole story.
It may sound counterintuitive but working without pause jeopardizes your business, your creativity, your abilities, your health, and ultimately the life you’re working toward. Whether you’re an entrepreneur or a member of the rank-in-file, you can benefit by considering the following reframe:
There are hundreds (maybe even thousands) of folks that are doing what you’re doing everyday. If you want to be great, you’ve got to be much different than the others.
So what are you doing to differentiate yourself?
If your answer is to work extra hours, sacrifice weekends, and never take a vacation, then you’re actually not all that different at all.
Consider that the average U.S. worker leaves almost half of his or her vacation days on the table. In fact, a recent survey reports that only 23% of workers used all of their paid time off in the last 12 months.
Still think you’re standing out?
In an effort to appear uniquely valuable, most of us act the same. Here are the most common defenses I hear for over-working – if you identify with any (or all) of them, then you just like everyone else:
- I’m going to appear less dedicated or even replaceable if I take a vacation
- My workload is too heavy to take a break / I’m afraid of the pile-up that I’d return to
- No one else is available to cover my work
These are the words that we tell ourselves to offset the fear. The data tells a different story. There are many benefits to taking your vacation timeincluding a greater ability to direct attention and energy, better judgment, the ability to generate more and more-diverse ideas. Researcher Mark Rosekind of Alertness Solutions reports that the respite effect of a vacation can increase performance by 80%.
(If you really want some inspiration, check out this TED talk by designer Stefan Sagmeister who closes his New York studio every seven years for a yearlong sabbatical to rejuvenate and refresh their creative outlook)
Taking a break is a good start – and it certainly may separate you from the herd – but there may be more afoot here than just not working.
Employees taking all or most of their vacation days to travel report dramatically higher rates of happiness than those using little to none of their time for travel (76% to 48%). The key word here is travel– not simply taking time off for any old purpose.
Employees who shared they use little to none of their vacation time for travel were five percentage points less likely than those who use all or most of their vacation time for travel to report a raise or bonus in the last 3 years. And get this: more than half of those who travel report receiving a promotion in the past 2 years.
Does taking a vacation still sound too selfish? In some ways, it did for Steve too. Here was our suggestion:
Find an Adventure Vacation
If you’re thinking travel only means comfort, predictability, and relaxation then you’re missing out on a wonderful self-development opportunity. Forego the typical fly and flop getaway by combining time away with a program of self-discovery and skills-development.
Psychologist Todd Kashden believes that travel should routinely be used to achieve the opposite: “to get out of your comfort zone, expose yourself to uncertainty, and eschew rest for exploration and learning. The result is personal growth — greater emotional agility, empathy, and creativity.”
An adventure vacation can encompass a huge range of activities, cultural experiences and excursions limited by only your appetite for adventure and imagination. Here are some of the many reasons to consider an Adventure:
Life is far too short to merely settle for the same type of vacation you have taken every year up to this point. Our world is made up of fascinating people, places, smells, tastes, sights, and emotions – shouldn’t your life be like that too?
Memories & Achievement
An adventure vacation has the power to create vivid and lasting memories. Location matters but so too does the program and personal growth. When all is said and done, you’ll look back on your adventure with happiness, pride and a sense of achievement.
Fellowship & Wellness
Look for Adventures that promote personal care & wellness while placing a strong emphasis on fellowship. The people you meet while traveling will be some of the most valued names on your contact list (and they often become places on the map to visit next). These folks provide you a glimpse into another life, present you with new and refreshing perspectives, and remind you that the way you’ve been looking at the world isn’t the way everybody else does. (In fact, your point-of-view might have some major blind spots).
Explore with Experience
Exploring with others assures that you’re not “going it alone.” At PointAbove for example, we deal with transition, transformation, and achievement every day – so we’ll be there to support and share in your achievement.