Ready for your next vacation?
YES, say most people…even if the last one wasn’t that long ago.
Anyone who’s ever taken a vacation knows that you can come back replenished or exhausted, excited or defeated, or restored or depleted.
It all depends on how you use the time you have.
I just came back from two weeks of vacation, but was amazed by how much vacation ‘advice’ I got.
People told me I needed to go off social media completely. That I wasn’t allowed to do any writing. That I had to completely unplug. That ministry was completely off limits while I was away.
Much of the advice, I think, is wrong…or at least wrong for me.
Well meaning—sure—but still unhelpful.
In fact, I’m becoming convinced that much of the advice you read or is given about vacation is written by people who hate their jobs and think one size fits all when it comes to relaxation.
I realize not everyone has a job they love, but there’s something wrong when work is something you endure to make it to the weekend or to those magical weeks off that happen oh so rarely.
The advice I got bothered me enough that I decided to take a stab at some new vacation rules. There are only three.
See if you agree.
And see if these rules for your next vacation don’t make you feel much better when you come back from your next stint away.
1. Do The Things That Restore You
One of the goals of vacation is to come back restored. No matter how much you love your job, leadership is stressful and you really do need a break.
But we have all ended up on vacations that drain you so much that you need a vacation after your vacation.
So how do you do that? How do you come back restored, replenished and rejuvenated?
The reality is that everyone is different.
Some of my friends take all-inclusives and claim it’s the best thing ever.
Others travel and see every historic site in the city, snapping pictures as they go, and swear it’s the only way to vacation.
Still other friends go camping and say they come back exhilarated. (I personally believe camping was invented by the devil. If God made us smart enough to build hotels and houses, after all, isn’t it unfaithful to revert to the bush? But I digress…)
All three options above, frankly, are unattractive to me. If I followed their prescription, I’d come back bored (all inclusive), exhausted (the uber site seeing trip), angry (the camping trip) and not restored at all.
Over the years I’ve learned that certain things restore me and certain things don’t.
The same is true for you. What works for your best friend may not work for you.
So now, on holidays, I personally look for the following things, knowing that if I have them, I come back feeling great.
A place where I can be with my wife and or wife and kids (our kids are young adults now, so they’re not always with us).
A place where no one knows me or my family or (alternatively) where we’re with just a handful of our extended family or best friends.
An opportunity for a few hours every day all alone, by myself with few to no interruptions (increasingly, I’m an introvert).
A vacation with no set agenda (don’t need to be anywhere or do anything at any given time).
A place where we don’t need to cook, but can make a few things ourselves if we want to.
The flexibility to do spontaneous day trips if we feel like it, or not.
Wifi or decent internet access.
I realize this might sound like purgatory to some of you or a nightmare scenario for others.
I’m not telling you this is how you need to spend your vacation. I am telling you this is how I best spend mine if I actually want to be restored.
My wife Toni has a list that would look a little different. She’d have more adventure and socialization than I would. And she has no desire for internet access at all unless we’re researching a day trip.
So we have worked really hard over the years to make sure each of us gets the environment we both need to come back restored. Ditto with our kids.
Often I’ll start the day with the question “What do you need today to make this a great day for you?” Toni usually asks me the same thing.
With a full day ahead of us, we can usually figure out a way to make sure we both get replenished.
Please hear me. Your day will look different.
The question you need to answer is what do I need to do to come back restored?
Then do it.
Stop living some else’s vacation and start living yours.
2. Do The Things That Energize You
Do you have any idea what energizes you and what drains you?
As I’ve matured as a leader I pay more and more attention to this every year.
The reality is certain activities and even environments restore me; others drain me.
Ditto for you.
One of the best things you can do for yourself as a leader (and human being) is to figure out what restores you and figure out what drains you. Then spend as much time as you can on what restores you, and as little time on what drains you.
This is great work advice (at least as far as you can control what you do with your time), but it is essential vacation advice.
Let’s face it. Certain people energize you. You leave feeling great and think How did two hours slip by so fast?
Other people drain you. You leave a 30 minute meeting feeling depleted and like the 30 minutes actually lasted a month.
That’s not good or bad. It’s just true.
The same is true with activities. Certain things get you really excited. Other activities make you feel like you’d rather poke out your eyes with a hot stick.
The key is for you to understand which is which.
I actually outlined how to create an energy management list in this post if you want to create one for yourself.
I make sure in every vacation that I spend time doing things that energize me.
For me these days, that everything I listed above and also includes blogging (at least a bit), writing (I started the intro to a new book) and even a Periscope session for leaders and listeners. I even thought through some fresh angles on ministry.
Why did I do these things on my vacation? Because I felt like it. And because I felt better after doing it than I did before.
These things give me energy. Your list might be completely different. That’s okay.
If you can figure out what gives you energy, you will come back replenished.
Just don’t let other people judge you for doing what you love to do.
3. Avoid What Drains You
All of us have things we have to do but leave us feeling diminished and depleted.
And similarly, we have people who drain us as I indicated above.
I would strongly urge you to avoid as many draining activities and people as you can while on vacation.
For example, I really detest email. I know it’s necessary, but I really don’t like it. I love putting my auto-responder on that says I’m going to be away for a few weeks.
I’m also blessed with a great assistant, and I have her go through my email while I’m away to answer as much as possible. That way when I get back, I’m not digging out from hundreds of emails.
I no longer feel any guilt for unplugging from email, even while I might selectively show up on social media or my blog when I’m away. Or in church (because I love our church and the local church).
And I try to surround myself with people who energize me, knowing I’ll have to be back to connect with all kinds of people in just a few short weeks.
Is This Just Selfishness?
The thing I’ve struggled with over the years—and even as I wrote this post—is this: isn’t this just really selfish?
I don’t think so.
It’s not selfish. It’s self-care.
Self-care isn’t selfish. It’s essential.
Jesus practiced it all the time (he kept disappearing to rest and to pray and connect with his Father, even when people still wanted to see him).
Leaders who don’t practice self-care burn out, as Perry Noble and I learned the hard way and talked about in this interview below.
If you practice self-care regularly (not just on vacation), you’ll find you will stay far away from burnout and you’ll avoid the trap of self-medication which so many Christian leaders fall into.
So those are my current new vacation rules.
1. Do the things that restore you.
2. Do the things that energize you.
3. Avoid what drains you.
Pretty simple, but for me at least, very effective.
Got any rules or insights you would add? Scroll down and leave a comment.