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Why Driven People Suck at Vacation (And 5 Ways To Fix It)

So summer is here and you’re trying to take some time off.

Ever notice that’s what driven leaders say all the time?

I’m going to try to take two weeks off.

I’m gonna try to unplug.

I’m trying to relax.

We A-types suck at vacation, don’t we?

It also really sucks if you’re married to us. Or we’re your parents.

How bad is it?

So bad that I included the “5 ways to fix it” subtitle to this post to get you to click on this article because you’re so driven you wouldn’t read an article on how to vacation unless it included a to-do list.

How do I know this?

Because I’m one of you. I’m actually finishing this post at an airport while everyone else talks and I’m trying to wrap it up because the flight we’re boarding has no wifi.

Yep, I’m speaking my native tongue.

Being a driven kind of person, the idea of doing nothing but resting is unsettling for me.

But I also understand how important it is.

Sabbath is God’s idea. And, as I discovered when I burned out, if you don’t take the Sabbath, the Sabbath will take you.

I know people who can take time off easily… they don’t worry, they’re never tempted to check email, they can easily shut down social media for a week, and they find a hammock to be relaxing.

That person is not me.  I think a few of you can relate.

What’s frustrating is that you hear people give advice all the time about powering down, not checking email, getting offline and just relaxing…vacation is easy for them. But not for some of us. 

So over the years I’ve developed these 5 vacation rules that, if observed, make shutting off all the devices and truly taking a break easier.

They help me, as a driven person, relax better.

suck at vacation

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.

Take some time before your holiday to prepare for your holiday. Use your evenings to rest up before you leave.

Pack ahead of time. Build the anticipation. When I do this, I can start day one of vacation fully rested and ready to enjoy.

Last year for the first time, I took a week off before our family left for a week together, just to unwind alone and be ready for them when they were free. It helped.

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 time 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, then they have what they need and I can get what I need: peace of mind, knowing everything will be okay.

The next step is even more important: let go.

I did this recently when my wife and I went to Australia. I spent almost zero time online (except TripAdvisor or Instagram for fun), fought no fires and let my team handle everything. We had two of the best weeks we’ve had together in years.

But more than that, great things happened back home. The church grew. And my podcast had the single biggest month in its almost two-year history (I lined up all the episodes before I left and gave my team the job of posting them).

You know what I learned? When you let go, things grow.

Early in my leadership, I never would have believed it. Now I do.

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 team can call the shots while I’m away. My assistant handles my email for my entire vacation.  If you don’t have an assistant, use an autoresponder and plan to spend your first or second day back sorting through email.

If you plan for it, you won’t worry about it while away.

4.  Find out what fuels you

I have friends who love to vacation at bed and breakfasts, chat with the locals and make new friends during their holiday. For me, that would be the opposite of vacation.

My ideal vacation is where I go somewhere with my family,  I don’t know anyone, and I 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).

I also know it’s important for me to be in an environment that refuels me.

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.

If you don’t know what fuels you, even your vacation can drain you.

5. Pick a goal for your holidays

My drivenness can make me feel like I waste time while away. Obviously, one of my goals is to spend meaningful time with my family; I also use vacation time as time to connect with God.

But I’ve learned if I pick some goals for my holidays, it makes me feel better and enjoy my time alone and with my family more. Your goal can be as simple as reading a few books, taking some pictures, or even a fitness goal.

I feel less restless and more rested if I set a few goals.

Do you suck at vacation?

How about you?  What vacation rules do you have?

Or do you just unplug and think us A types are crazy?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

Why Driven People Suck at Vacation (And 5 Ways To Fix It)

5 Comments

  1. Samuel Vanderwood on July 28, 2016 at 3:30 pm

    I just got back from my summer vacation and having read this article before going away, I can say it definitely helped!

  2. […] Carey Nieuwhof on Why Driven People Suck at Vacations (and 5 Ways To Fix it).  […]

  3. Kirsten Bullock on July 13, 2016 at 12:59 pm

    Had to laugh when I started reading this post. On the way back from our vacation last week I told my husband I really need to figure out how to unwind faster. He laughed and said it sounded like I was trying to make a task out of it (which would stress him out). Will definitely keep this in mind for my next vacation – and will share these tips with driven nonprofit leaders I know :-).

  4. Geoff Kullman on July 4, 2016 at 9:44 am

    Goals for this vacation: phone turned OFF during the day, read lots of book, pay crazy amounts of attention to my wife and kids!

  5. Scott on July 4, 2016 at 9:28 am

    My wife jokes about this all the time with me…only recently have i realized that it is a challenge to be taken seriously. Thank you for the tips!

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