What? Are you serious? Who needs a guide on how to take a vacation? As we become more connected through mobile devices, our always-on jobs, and our expanding online social networks, it’s harder to break away from the physical aspects of work, and even more importantly, the developing mental separation from work and daily life woes to really relax and recharge.
This was my first time unplugged in a few years, and now that Altimeter Group is continuing to safely grow (and hiring) it was a good time to take two weeks completely away from work, and week completely unplugged in the remote Fiji islands.
Well, I should point the finger at myself first, as I live and work, a highly connected lifestyle. It was hard for me to take time off, but I was successfully able to disconnect, both the wireless connection and mental disconnection from work. I want to share five steps on how to have a successful vacation when you’re a highly connected individual.
Five Steps To Take a Vacation in a Highly Connected World:
Step 1: Take a Vacation. Really. Take one. Or at least, plan for one right now. In fact, the American workforce is less likely to take vacation than many other industrialized nations. Even if your budgets or schedule is limited, take a staycation. Lower cost alternatives include camping at your local beach and national park, or even staying in a nice hotel in your home city on the other side of town.
Step 2: Properly Plan To Leave Woes Behind. make some deals with your colleagues that they will cover for you when you’re gone, and you’ll do the same for them. Then, let your customers, clients, partners, and other important folks, at least 30 days in advance, to set expectations. Lastly, let folks know you’ll be completely disconnected, and they should send you important emails that require action to your colleagues, or after you return: set expectations. Special thanks to Altimeter’s Julie Viola, Christine Tran, Andrew Jones, Charlene Li, and others for covering for me during my downtime.
Step 3: Unplug, Even Forcibly If Needed. So the best way for me to be unplug is to go to an area where there’s no electronic devices, and spent time island in the remote Fiji islands where there’s no cars, TVs, radio, internet, for most islands, you don’t have to go to the other side of the planet to do this, just leave your electronics in the hotel safe. If you truly lack self control, you can disconnect, unpower your devices, or even have your carriers cut off access for a short period of time. Taking time off from social networks (even beyond your vacation) is a good ideas. See what happened when I took a few weeks off from Twitter, my world was just fine.
Step 4: Use Your “Idea Freezer”. Physically being on the beach is much different than mentally being on the beach. One trick to deploy is having a way to shed ideas, so you can resume them after you return without them interfering into your peaceful brain. The best way is to have a ‘mental freezer’ such as a notepad (I always carry a Moleskine see how I use it to stay organized) by the bed stand to write down any invasive work idea came into your head whatever they are. Quickly slay those ideas, by putting pen to paper, and leaving them in the freezer and expanding your mindshare for other ideas. After a few days, you should settle into your relaxing vacation, worry-free. The great thing about the idea freezer is that they will be there when it’s time to come to reality, all thawed out.
Step 5: Do a Counter Cycle. It’s so easy to yearn to go back to our daily routine so try new experience to expand your mind. Do something opposite to your daily routine (hence the “counter cycle”): exercise, read leisurely books, or just get some sun I find that mixing with different cultures gives me a unique perspective I can take home and reapply to life and work. For example, spending time with the leisurely Fijians on “Fiji Time” (which is far slower than Hawaiian time) helped me to refocus on what’s really important in life.
If you’ve followed these steps, of actually planning, unplugging, then mentally refreshing yourself on your holiday, congratulations, you’ve successfully taken a vacation in a highly connected world, and are ready to return to the land of the connected. Update: Also see Boston Innovation’s group “Why you need a vacation“.
(Update: Fiji pics are now live on Flickr)