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    Work Like You're Going on Vacation
    The Vault

    Work Like You're Going on Vacation

    June 2017

    This first day of summer has me thinking a lot about vacation, and not just because I’m eager to get away for a few days.  As I look around the office and see my colleagues preparing to embark on various trips, I sense a “buzz” that isn’t always there.  It’s actually the opposite of what we’ve come to expect from summer: a slowed-down pace, days void of phone calls, emails, client meetings, and so on.  On the contrary, the pre-vacation buzz is fast-paced, efficient, and extremely productive.  Have you ever noticed that?

    People are super-productive right before they go away perhaps because the thought of a week or two with absolutely no distractions, the knowledge that they “got it all done”, is enough to light that kind of fire beneath them.  It makes me chuckle, but it also makes me wonder.  How can we capture that kind of time management mastery when we’re not up against the vacation clock?  And, if we did, how much extra time would we have in the week to accomplish other things?  In other words, we didn’t tumble down the rabbit holes of distraction and procrastination (I’m looking at you, Facebook), what else could we accomplish? Learning a new skill or just having an extra hour off on occasion suddenly seems possible.

    In no particular order, here’s what I’ve noticed most about people heading out for vacation. Take a moment to reflect on these habits and think about how you can copy them, even if you’re not taking any time off soon.  

    They kill distractions.

    People leaving for vacations maximize concentration and decrease distraction, plain and simple.  Facebook, Twitter, sports alerts, personal texts, lunch with a friend, going home at lunch to meet the cable guy...they all go out the window.   As a result, their productivity, creativity, and mental sharpness increase while fatigue, procrastination, and overall stress decrease. They more sharply separate work from personal life.  As a result, they get more done.  

    They focus on one thing at a time.

    There’s a long-standing myth that people who master the practice of multi-tasking will be at the top of their games. Nothing could be further from the truth.  Study after study has shown that multi-tasking decreases productivity and drains creativity.  We love to wear the badge of the person that “does it all”, but there’s really nothing honorable about it.  You mostly just drop all the balls you’re juggling and lose your sanity.

    By contrast, people going on vacation are acutely focused on one task at a time.  They “batch” similar tasks and then tackle their to-do list one by one.  For example, they’ll answer all their emails at once, or return all their phone calls, or process all their reports. No one thing interrupts the other.  And everything gets done.

    They set boundaries.

    Entertainer Steve Harvey was in the spotlight recently after a leaked memo revealed he’d recently instructed staff to stop interrupting him all the time.  His language may have been a little sharp,  but I think most people sympathized with him.  It’s absolutely impossible to get anything done when co-workers constantly interrupt with questions, ideas, or requests for help.

    When a restful vacation hangs in the balance, people define their boundaries better.  They tell co-workers “not now” by closing their office doors, putting their phones on DND, and shutting down email while they complete their tasks. There’s a really good lesson to learn there.  After all, come review time, you’ll be judged on how well you achieved your goals, not your colleagues’.

    They stop being perfectionists.

    Now, before you jump to conclusions, I’m not saying you should aim for “good enough” when it comes to your work. That’s sloppy.  What I am saying is that, if you get bogged down double and triple checking every minute detail, you’ll never progress.  When you’re really looking to check items off your to-do list, move forward as deliberately and efficiently as possible.  Done is better than perfect.  Later on, you can go back and work on the details (and catch your errors).    

    They reward themselves.

    Yes, the big vacation is hanging out there, and that’s the ultimate reward.  But I’ve also noticed that people in productive pre-vacation mode also allow themselves rewards throughout their busy workdays.  Perhaps they work for 30 minutes straight and then allow themselves to get up for another cup of coffee.  Or, they work for an hour and grab a bowl of ice cream from our office kitchen. Perhaps they give themselves a 10 minute walk around the block after every 2 hours of straight work.  The specific reward isn’t important. Whatever entices them to work hard and efficiently for set periods of time is good enough. We should do the same even if vacation isn’t looming.

    I hope there’s a vacation on the horizon for you!  But, if not, act like there is.  I’m certain you’ll see your productivity and sense of peace about your work day increase.




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