So today we leave on vacation. 17 days together as a family, including a week with my parents, sisters and their families. It’s going to be incredibly fun.
And yes, I’m blogging on my holidays. Here’s why: because it’s 5 a.m. and no one else is up…plus blogging is a way of processing for me. It’s recreational.
But vacations haven’t always been fun for me. In fact, they used to stress us out. I say us, because you should talk to my wife Toni. My stress stressed out more than just me.
Finally I learned what was making me stressed out and irritable, so over the years I’ve developed some unwritten vacation rules that really help me relax. I’m writing them down here knowing your rules will be different (please share them), but that these rules have been game changers for me.
1. Prepare for your vacation, don’t just take it. I used to run into my holidays full speed, and it would take me half my holidays to unwind. For the last week I’ve been catching up on my sleep. We’ve done a month of vacation prep (it’s a big trip), and we’ve built the anticipation. I can go into day one vacation fully rested and ready to enjoy (which is why I’m up at 5 a.m.)
2. Equip your team, and yourself, for your break. Leaving work behind is hard work. I wasn’t good at this for years. Now I spend at least two weeks before leaving asking “what does my team need while I’m away so they can run optimally and so I can rest?” If all of that is lined up (I sent out dozens of ‘here’s what you need to look for/know/do when I’m away’ emails to team members before I leave), then they have way they need and I can get what I need: peace of mind, knowing everything will be okay.
3. Delegate authority and responsibility. While this is good practice all the time, make sure you leave behind real decisions, real authority and real responsibility. My assistant is handling my email for the entire vacation. I gave her full authority to do whatever she thinks is best when I’m away. Other teams are making key decisions while I’m gone. And I know I will come back simply jump back into their flow. I barely bought any minutes on my phone for our destination. In part, because I know they won’t need to call me unless something dire happens. Getting constant texts, calls and emails from the office while you are a way may be a sign that you haven’t delegated responsibility or authority well.
4. Find out what fuels you. I have a friend who just got back from a vacation in Eastern Canada where she stayed at bed and breakfasts, chatted with the locals and went to kitchen parties in people’s homes. She loved it. I was thrilled for her but for me, that would be the opposite of vacation. My dream vacation is where I go somewhere with my family, know no one else and don’t need to talk to anyone who might know me. I suppose it’s a way to refuel for living in a world where so many people know me and I get stopped for conversation virtually everywhere I go (happens to a lot of us in ministry). Also, camping is my nemesis. Give me a good hotel and some day trips any day and I’m good to go. We’ve worked it through as a family to the point where when we do the kind of vacation we’re currently doing, everyone comes back rested and recharged, ready to go.
5.Pick a goal for your holidays. My drivenness can make me feel like I waste time while away. Other people are spectacular at resting, but I’m not. So I’ve learned if I pick some goals for my holidays, it makes me feel better. I have a few goals for this holiday. One is to make it a great experience for my family. Another is to read some books. Other objectives include taking (and processing) great photos on the trip and staying fit (brought my running shoes). I feel less restless and more rested if I set a few goals. I also set a goal to be a worshipper when I’m on holidays. Because I’m out of my leader’s saddle, I don’t like to skip Sundays. I want to show up at church and every day in life as a worshipper. Because in God’s eyes, that’s who I really am anyway, every day.
How about you? What vacation rules do you have? Or do you just unplug and think us A types are crazy?