Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Lessons Learned On My Summer Vacation


Summer vacation causes us to slow down and do things we don’t have time for normally.

Banks require all of their employees who have involvement with customer accounts to take two consecutive weeks off each year from a  regulatory and a risk management standpoint. Many progressive companies urge their people to take time off to recharge. Research shows that it actually takes two weeks to form a habit, so for those who want to make a change for the better, two weeks should do the trick.

A Digital Native Unplugs

My two-week vacation to Europe taught me a lot.

I needed the first week to just unwind and slow down. The real benefits of my holiday didn't start until week two.  The impact of that second week will be long-lasting.

In week two, I was on a cruise ship off the northern coast of Spain. The boat had no mobile phone access and limited Internet availability. So, I was left without my iPhone and had nothing but time to bounce my thoughts off the beautiful Atlantic all around me.

Addicted To the Action

Heading off the grid is actually more difficult than you think.  A recent McKinsey study shows just how addicted we are to our smart phones and email.

§         The average knowledge worker spends more than 25% of the day writing and responding to email. (yep)

§         80% continue to work and respond to email after they leave the office. (I do that too)

§        59% check email before they go to bed. (bad idea)

§        I was horrified to read that 38% check email during dinner (guilty!).

The Virtues of Going Dark

Being unplugged forced me to slow down and think. That was very valuable, and it is a time-tested tactic.

Bill Gates used to take two “Think Weeks” each year and go to an isolated cabin or resort to contemplate. Peter Drucker in his classic book, The Effective Executive, emphasized that the differentiator between successful and unsuccessful executives is their ability to slow down and think.
Once I was unplugged, ideas big and small – about life, business and family – came to me one after another. Without the daily urgency to react to the digital firehose, my mind and heart wandered to the places it needed to go.

That was pleasant enough.  Equally as refreshing was the reminder that the world didn’t stop when I turned off my phone. My stocks and investments were still there. So was my company.

It’s not just adults who learn on their summer vacation, either. Children love slowing down. The kids I teach at Sunday school all come back aglow from summer camp.

It’s not surprising why they do: No homework, no parental or BFF drama, no shuffling from one activity to another. Just the freedom to do as you please.



Note to self: You don’t have to take a vacation to turn off your phone.

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