Today I wanted to write about a strategy I've been employing to have better work/life balance. After a successful 2012, I was happy but very tired. My business was thriving, but my energy was low and I felt drained more than I felt inspired. In 2013, I resolved to try something different, and so over dinner one night my husband and I hatched a crazy plan.
The decision? To take 10 vacations in 2013. The result? Not only has this reduced our stress level, but it's been a pleasant surprise to see how easy it's been to take shorter, more frequent breaks. I'll tell you how we've done it so far.
How to Take Ten Vacations a Year
Basically, we focus on long weekends. We try to take a three or four day weekend approximately once per month. Here is the basic plan:
1. Block off the date(s) on your calendar. Choose a date that is the least disruptive to your work.
Why 10 vacations and not 12? We know there will be a few months where it won't be possible to take an extra day.
2. 1-3 weeks in advance, pick a location. If needed, secure transportation and lodging.
3. You are permitted to bring work with you. I work on the plane if we fly, and I do respond to emails and phone calls while I am away. This takes very little time and ensures my customers are well taken care of.
The Adjustment Period
If you are used to traditional vacations, you know that it can take you a few days to "spin down" from your work level of stress. With a weekend trip, you don't have that luxury. It takes some time to learn how to shift into relaxation mode more quickly. Here are a few things that may help:
1. Don't over-schedule yourself. - Avoid the temptation to pack your trip full of activities. This will stress you out. Just show up and then make plans when you arrive. An internet connection will be helpful for this.
2. Check your email. - This may sound counter-intuitive, but you know what is so stressful about vacations? The fact that the work is piling up! Peek at your email! Bring a project to work on in the evening after sightseeing! I've found that "mostly disconnecting" is far less stressful than dropping off the radar. I want my customers to be able to reach me, instead of needing to wait.
3. Don't make a big deal out of it. - If you are only gone for a day or two, you can afford to be low key about it. If you are on email while you travel, you might not need an out-of-office message for example. Most of the time, people don't even notice I'm gone. I love that. Obviously you need to clear your plans with your manager, if you have one.
As I write this post, it is early June. I've had five really great mini-vacations with my husband this year, and my next one is just a couple weeks away. The fact that there is always some time off "around the corner" is an immense stress reliever.
This strategy doesn't need to be expensive. I had more fun staying home and going to Comicon with the family than I did in our trip to a very nice hotel in Vegas. It was a blast to drive to the Oregon coast in April, even though we sat around and watched movies while it rained. In short, it's about the time, not about the money.
Taking 10 vacations a year has made me less stressed, more cheerful, and has helped me feel even more connected with my family and my life outside of work.
What might it do for you? Would your boss let you give it a try? If you are trying something similar, tell us about it!
Cheri Baker is a management consultant, writer, and professor living in Seattle, WA.