Executive Vitality™: Plan On a Good Vacation

Executive Vitality™: Plan On a Good VacationFrom a leadership perspective, vacations are fascinating. If you search on “vacation” in the venerable Harvard Business Review, you come up with about 2,900 results! If you narrow “vacation” articles with filters, you get:

  • Vacations, leadership and managing people – about 800
  • Vacations and managing organizations – about 1,200
  • Vacations and managing yourself – more than 700

Obviously, there is a great deal of interest in this topic. Cultural differences in attitudes about taking vacations are well-documented. Americans are notoriously bad at taking vacations; Australians are unusually good at it. Harvard Business Review published an article with a summary of these interesting international attitudinal differences: Managing Vacations When Your Team Is Global.

How do you feel before, during and after your vacation? Unfortunately, “stressed out” is a frequent answer, at least for before and after your vacation, but happily, it is not the only answer. In his article, When a Vacation Reduces Stress — And When It Doesn’t, Shawn Achor looked at the phenomenon of returning from vacation feeling tired and worn. Not surprisingly, if the vacation itself is stressful for some reason, you will come back exhausted and frazzled rather than rested and rejuvenated.

How can you prepare in advance so that your vacation is restorative and not debilitating? Here are some ideas from both the personal and professional vantage points.

  1. From an organizational perspective, ensure you have the bench strength so the organization will successfully carry on in your absence—this applies at all levels, not just the most senior. Of course, having an adequate talent pipeline is critical to your organization’s overall success for many, many reasons.
  2. Make vacations an opportunity for stretch assignments—professional development for a person filling in for their boss, for example. Build it into leaders’ development plans.
  3. Planning is critical. Communicate your plans to all who need to know as soon as feasible. You don’t want your key surrogates out at the same time. You also want people to have the opportunity to get your input on situations that they anticipate occurring in your absence. They may need to rearrange previously planned work to ensure seamless coverage.
  4. Planning on the personal side is critical also. Vacations are important. You probably know what type of vacation feeds your soul and what type drains you. Some people want to mountain-climb or shoot the rapids, some want to sit on a beach, others want to learn about history, art or other cultures. You owe it to yourself to give yourself the best chance for the most satisfying R&R possible.
  5. The more you plan (or have someone else plan) the logistics of your vacation, the more you will minimize inconveniences like showing up at the wrong airport or on the wrong day. Planning does not mean you have to squelch all spontaneity, it just means you won’t become a victim of unnecessary chaos.
  6. Much has been written about how connected you should or should not be on vacation. This is a personal choice. Choose wisely.

What has made for a good or bad vacation for you in the past? What can you do professionally and personally to ensure you benefit the most from your hard-earned time off?

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