Summer time. For some, it’s an enjoyable break—a time for rejuvenating and creating memories that will last a lifetime. For others, it is yet another frustrating reminder that work-life balance is not within reach for them.
If you feel that you end up in the second category more than the first, here are five tips for getting the summer break you long for:
1) Plan ahead
If you want to be able to take some time to be completely offline in a few weeks, now is probably not the best time to introduce any new demanding projects. Instead, put them on your “after summer” list, and focus on wrapping up your current projects so you can leave the office with as few loose threads as possible.
Scandinavians are really good at this. It’s normal to take July completely off, and in June it’s practically impossible to get customers, or anyone else, to start a new project. In Scandinavia, June is for wrapping up, and July is for unplugging completely.
“For a person that loves his or her job, it’s definitely not a big punishment if they have to spend an hour on something work related during a vacation.”
If you are a boss, chances are that the holiday polarity is even bigger than for people without any management responsibilities. Most bosses find it extremely hard to take time off. They feel they need to be accessible to their team, and make sure everything is running smoothly. However, a few bosses have realised that being in charge means they can delegate and organise so that a true holiday experience can become a reality.
The role models in our book Winning Without Losing embrace delegation. They have understood the difference between getting things done their way, and getting things done in a good way. They have recruited a team of great coworkers. They have strong communication with a clear vision and agreed specific goals. With this, everyone is independent enough to work for a few weeks on their own.
The good boss not only makes sure to get his/her own rejuvenating holiday, but also takes responsibility for everyone he/she manages to have access to the same. In my own case, I have told my team that I expect them to take six weeks of holiday a year, and I trust them to plan so well together with the other team members that no one will be in trouble while they are away. It works very well because my team is made up of intelligent, organised, and conscientious people. Hopefully your team is as well. If not; make sure they will be before the next summer holiday.
3) Practice letting go
If you have planned well ahead and you are part of a good team, but you still can’t relax on your holiday—chances are this has more to do with your inner life than with the outer realities.
Don’t worry, that’s completely normal. Many of us are, to some extent, control freaks. It scares us more than anything else to just let go. However, if you are in this category, that’s your task: practice letting go.
You will be surprised to find that things are more or less the same when you come back, as they were when you left. Have faith, and you’ll see that everything is going to be just fine without you for awhile.
4) Find the least interrupting way to be accessible
I am always accessible to my team, also when I am on vacation. However, that’s a very easy thing for me to be, because we have created a culture where everyone is empowered to work towards our mission, so on most holidays I actually don’t hear from them at all. This is working so well, that I actually sometimes log in to our virtual office while I am on vacation to read the most interesting news. I do this not because I have to (everything is running smoothly without me) but because I enjoy it.
Text messages are my favorite way of being accessible when I am on vacation. I have told everyone (also in my email auto reply) that if there’s something urgent that only I can fix, then please send me a text message. That way I don’t need to check my email, or log in to any systems. I just get a text message, and I have found that most people respect this process and only reach out if they really need to. That’s probably because I respect their holidays too.
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5) Love your job
Some people feel that their vacation is completely destroyed if they hear from work at all. If you belong in that category, it’s most likely a sign that you are not happy with your job anymore. The best thing will be to go to the root cause, not merely working on the symptoms. For a person that loves his or her job, it’s definitely not a big punishment even if they have to spend an hour on something work related during a vacation.
While on vacation, I often work an hour in the morning before the family gets up, even when I am otherwise fully immersed in a beautiful holiday experience. For me that can be a perfect start of the day, because I truly love my job. It brings me more joy to be together with it than anything else I could do at that specific time of day.
I hope you had a great summer, and that it will be more balanced in the years to come!