Working during your vacation? Highly recommended... especially for leaders.

August 3, 2023

The most important task for every leader? Working on your own energy and positivity, especially during vacation. Anne Jaakke knows what that should look like.

In my coaching practice, the standard response to my opening question in recent months has been: How are you?

"I can't wait to go on vacation. I can't take it anymore, I really need it."

Months of hard work, dozens of Zoom sessions in a day, increasing pressure due to an economic and political climate that worries many executive teams, lagging results while costs rise, a workforce that is exhausted, and a major shortage of personnel. The list of challenges faced by many directors these days is endless.

"For years, I used to go on vacation exhausted. The running joke in the family was that I only became fun in week 2."

You would think that every director realizes that now more than ever, it is crucial for a leader to be fit, well-rested, able to think clearly, remain authentically positive, see new solutions, have a genuine and compelling story, encourage the team, and put things into perspective.

That is why everyone should understand that as a leader, it is necessary to have and maintain sufficient energy and positivity. Working on your own energy and positivity is the most important task for every leader. It requires vision, a plan, and steadfastness. If you don't have one, create it during your vacation. Especially during your vacation!

Detoxing However, the reality of the day is that the focus of many leaders has shifted to quickly and skilfully responding to emails and messages so that daily business can continue to run smoothly. The day begins and ends with it. Breaking this pattern during vacation turns out to be something akin to "detoxing" for many.

Seeing an email and/or app notification triggers a Pavlovian reaction, even on vacation. A social media detox would be wise, but many leaders find it irresponsible not to stay informed and/or be unreachable. As a compromise, an agreement is made with the family that mom/dad will spend 1 hour each day checking emails. It seems like a clever approach. Similar to having 1 cigarette a day...

So, what might an ideal "work" vacation look like?

First Work Phase (Day 0-3) - Relax Do nothing. Really, nothing at all. Put your phone away. Inform the company that in case of emergencies, your partner can be called, but you won't have your phone on. Manage expectations beforehand. Also, eat and drink whatever and whenever you want: Feel how you feel. Observe your own feelings and behaviours, and write them down or speak them out at the end of the day. Were you mostly: tired? sluggish? stressed? nervous? impatient/bored

Second Work Phase (From Day 4) - Conscious Eating & Enjoyment Pay attention to your food, move, and consciously breathe for 5 minutes. Your energy is in your food! Eat things that are delicious but healthy - with high energetic value - and move a bit. Nothing extreme, just swimming, walking, cycling, yoga, etc. Your task during this phase: consciously create a moment of enjoyment for yourself every day.

Third Phase - Reflect Reflect on the past few months. Ask yourself the following four questions:

  • How did I feel?
  • How well did I perform as a leader?
  • How happy did I feel?
  • What was my average energy level?

Fourth Phase - Let Go Just have fun. Do things that make you happy. Don't overthink. Let things be. The best insights and ideas come at unexpected moments.

Fifth Phase - Brainstorm (together) What do you want to experience in the next 2 months? Not achieve, but experience? Write it down and share it with your partner and family. Then, brainstorm together on how that could be possible. Have a delightful open conversation together.

"I wish every leader had multiple 'work' vacations per year."

For years, I used to go on vacation exhausted. The running joke in the family was that I only became fun in week 2. Then, in one breath, the question followed of what I would do differently next time so that I wouldn't need 4 days of sleep to recover. That question occupied me for years. In the meantime, I believe I know the answer.

I wish every leader had multiple 'work' vacations per year. Relaxing, self-reflection, and energetically recharging on vacation, that is truly hard work. Energetic work, that is. As a reward, a wonderful dose of new energy and no more guilt for not answering emails and messages.

Sorry, I was working :-)

Anne Jaakke
HR ChangeMaker
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