So Christmas break (following your Christmas services) is almost 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’ll 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 do I know this?

Because I’m one of you. I’m actually finishing this post at as we gear up for a big course launch heading into the New Year (the High Impact Leader comes back next week, and it’s designed to help driven people get their life and leadership back), and I’m planning a complete break for a few days before that.

So, 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. 

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. I’ve shared them before, but I have to come back to them again and again.

When I don’t follow them, I ruin my holiday. And I’ve done that a few times too.

Overall, the rules help me, as a driven person, relax better.

See if they help you.

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?”

Or this year, what do we ALL need to do so EVERYONE can have a full break?

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.

If you do this right when you’re away, your ministry will grow even when you’re not engaged in it. I’ve taken a month off more than once. And when I truly release the team to do what they do best, our church has grown. Last year, when I was off for a month,  my podcast had the single biggest month in its history to that point (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.

And if your assistant is off, everyone should just hit the auto-responder.

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

4.  Find out what fuels you

Christmas break can be draining for anyone with all the gatherings, travel and people.

Smart leaders know what refuels them and decide to at least sneak in some time for themselves.

For some, that might be reading a book by the fire. For others, it might be movies and dinner. For others, it might be throwing parties and having a full house.

Everyone’s different.

Don’t let someone else’s idea of rest determine how you will rest, or you’ll end up returning to work exhausted.

That’s exactly how, so many times, you end up saying you need a vacation to recover from your vacation.

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

[tweet Don’t let someone else’s idea of rest determine how you will rest, or you’ll end up returning to work exhausted.”]

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 a 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.

Or it might be to sleep eight hours every night or hike for 10 miles.

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

If you’re a driven person, maybe you can relate.

Imagine 2018…Better

high impact leader

Driven leaders usually struggle with all this. But it doesn’t have to stay that way.

So how has 2017 been for you as a leader?

Listen to Isaac’s story. He recently completed the High Impact Leader course:

If you asked me earlier this year if I would want a repeat of 2017 I would have said, no way.

After walking through the High Impact Leader though, I would and will repeat what I have been doing in the last few months.

It has allowed me to be more strategic with my time, energy, and priorities like never before. I have held a full schedule for the last few months and unlike ever before, my family did not feel the weight of it, my family was prioritized at the top of it.

Thank you, Carey, for helping the end of 2017 be great and I’m very excited about what 2018 is going to hold!

Pam from Red Rock Church in Colorado Springs calls the High Impact Leader “a gamechanger.”

Dave from Invitation Church in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, a married pastor of a new church plant who has two kids under the age of five says:

“Just wow. Thank you. The course helped me identify my priorities and work to bring clarity in all phases of my life.  I feel SO, SO, SO much more freedom.”

And that’s the goal. I hope that’s what will happen in your life.

We’re currently offering some free, limited time bonuses for everyone who jumps in on this offering of the High Impact Leader course.

To learn more or to enroll now, click here.

In the meantime, what have you learned about getting and staying healthy in leadership? And why do you think over-working traps so many leaders?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

Do you suck at vacation?

How about you?  What vacation rules do you have?

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

Scroll down and leave a comment!

How to Avoid Ruining Your Christmas Break (A Post For Driven People)


  1. Mike on December 27, 2017 at 1:47 pm

    Great post, Carey. Good tips for driven people.

    One thing has puzzled me for a while. It seems to me all well-known and respected western leaders are driven, Type A people. Is there a place in leadership for Type B people that place more emphasis on enjoying the journey over getting to a destination?

  2. Alan Youngblood. on December 23, 2017 at 8:44 am

    It’s really hard to vacation. It I manage to disconnect from work, I tackle all the home projects that have been piling up. I often look forward to getting back to work so I can get a vacation from my vacation.

  3. Courtney on December 22, 2017 at 4:41 pm

    I love the part where you say know what helps you relax. I know for me I will get bored if I clear my schedule and I will end up not being refreshed. Hanging out with people and doing recreational activities actually help me relax more. Also taking the time being with God excites me. Thanks so much for posting this!

  4. James on December 22, 2017 at 3:44 pm

    I so appreciate your honesty, vulnerability and integrity Carey…it gives me permission to be me and accept that is ok. Christmas blessings.

  5. Cora on December 22, 2017 at 2:29 pm

    I spend a lot of my vacation after Christmas with filing and arranging. It`s good to have a well organized office when the new year starts but it doesn’t give me a rest… But on the other and I cannot rest knowing that my office is a mess. Still looking for a better solution to this situation.

  6. BRENDA ANNE GRAFF on December 22, 2017 at 2:10 pm

    What incredible timing! You must have been the fly on my wall…as I was just saying to myself literally just minutes ago, “How am I going to find ANY time to relax and celebrate this Christmas?” Already stressing over the to-do’s. I know all this and the guilt that comes with it. I had to laugh when I read the part about the ‘Type A’ personality and being married to one…YES! I drive my husband and kids insane. He says to me all the time, “YOU DON’T KNOW HOW TO RELAX EVER! I know..guilty as charged. I would love to take a vacation from my own self…I’m exhausting! I am driven by responsibilities, the have-to-do’s, and desire to complete what I promise myself or others. I have a newspaper, online magazine, and involved in ministry. I haven’t even made time to set up my calendar…from your site that my Pastor set me up with. I can’t believe I am making time to even post this in process of laying out paper for print at same time. Thanks for the great blog!

  7. Jeff Fuson on December 22, 2017 at 1:50 pm

    Carey! Wow. This is a fantastic post. Your timing is perfect as I was berating myself a few nights ago because I thrive on action and momentum in my life, ministry and business. AND I DON’T FEEL LIKE IM THRIVING WHEN I’M AWAY FROM THE GRINDSTONE. But beginning to practice a weekly sabbath more consistently is helping me acknowledge my limits and experience His Power and providence in all areas of my life more clearly.
    So, I’m more prepared to take appropriate advantage of the upcoming break than I would have been in years past.

    Related to Sabbath as a set up for longer breaks I’ve been a slow learner but actually taking advantage of sabbath as a lifestyle over the past year has been powerful for me. Peter
    Scazzerro encourages us to think of sabbath like a snow day. And so when we make sabbath a part of our lifestyle we actually get ‘52 snow day a year’! ( see Pete’s book ‘Emotionally Healthy Spirituality’ for more on this concept)

    The concept of setting a few goals in other areas feels good to me and may be the key to being able to really maximize the upcoming break.

    Thanks Carey for a timely helpful post again. And I’m looking forward to The High impact Leadership Course—AFTER MY BREAK!! LOL. ( but honestly if I could just ‘sneak it in’ during the break I’d probably really enjoy that…. just sayin’! )

    Jeff Fuson

  8. Jamie on December 22, 2017 at 1:26 pm

    I follow your vacation advice that you didn’t include here – move your phone’s most used work apps away from your main screen and replace them with something that helps you relax. That way when your thumb goes to the place it is used to going, it will find relaxation, not work. This year my podcasts are going where my mail usually is. I have a lot of NBA, Malcolm Gladwell and CNLP to catch up on!

  9. Nicky on December 22, 2017 at 11:33 am

    What I tend to do is take an extra day off in the four weeks preceding the start of my summer holiday and, when away, take very nearly three weeks off in one go (a week just isn’t enough). I have also arranged with my team that, thoughout the year, I take the last Friday of the month as an additional day off – this gives me two days together (it started as a compensation for losing nearly half of my days off last year). That extra day is fantastic for reconnecting with my husband and children and I still then have time for household stuff. My voicemail message throughout the year makes it clear on which day I am not available. I’m very much a work in progress, but have learned the hard way that in order to minister to others, I must minister to myself (and allow others to do this to me)….few people ever stop to consider my needs and I cannot expect my husband to manage me, either. I am also good at saying “Yes to the idea but No to participation”. I find adults respond well to clarity.

  10. Michaela Lawrence Jeffery on December 21, 2017 at 8:08 pm

    Such a timely post. Thank you! Gonna create at least one vacation rule before the evening ends. This is gold.

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