In this time of the year most advices will tell you that you must–absolutely MUST—„take time off for a vacation“.
But what if you can’t find the time to get away from your business this summer ? Is it possible to create „a summer state of mind“ at work?
Vacations can be wonderful. They refresh you. They give you much needed time to devote to family. They lift worries and brighten your perspective. There’s even evidence that vacations improve productivity.
Everyone should take at least one vacation every year.
Look…. I have given you the standard good advice…
But let me get down to reality:
For many of us especially relatively new product launches, new businesses, important deadlines….getting away for a nice, long, summer vacation is easier said than done. It probably won’t surprise you that the majority of small business owners don’t take vacations for a long period of time.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t feel like you’re on vacation, even if you can’t get away this year. There are any number of small steps you can take. Here are nine things you can do:
Schedule a day or afternoon off every week (if you are an entrepreneur) or finish your work day earlier, beginning earlier (if working for a company). It’s a rare business that the owner can’t leave for a day or an afternoon at a time. My father-in-law was an incredibly busy doctor, but for 30 years he took every Wednesday afternoon off, year round, to stay with his mother at lunch and in the summer months to pursue activities with his kids.Pick whatever is the slow time in your business / daily schedule—maybe Friday afternoon after 04:00pm or Mondays. This time is just for family or yourself—hiking, lying by the pool, going on a zoo outing. For you and your family, it will feel like a vacation, even if it’s just an afternoon. If you are working for a company you can always start earlier in the morning and finish earlier on that „summer day“.
Institute summer casual dress. Make summer a time when everyone in your shop or (home) office can dress down a bit. Even for places of business where “business casual” is the normal state, relax the rules a bit more. Perhaps allow shorts, flip flops, and T-shirts one day a week. Everyone will feel like it’s a mini vacation, despite being at work.
Create a special treat day. Identify one day a week where you bring in lunch for everyone; perhaps Thursdays become „sushi day“. If your business is located in a place where you can have a BBQ grill, then invite your colleagues to a after-work grill burgers party. Or maybe Friday mornings are „Muffin days“.For those who receive the public, such as retail establishments, perhaps you can share with customers, too. Make it festive and fun, and everyone will feel more relaxed.
Get it off your plate and compartmentalize. Nothing is worse for our FLOW state of mind than having a constant nagging list of unfinished things we have to do. Sadly, for most of people that is the status quo. But it’s hard to enjoy the afternoon at the pool when all you can think of are the things waiting for you back at the office or the urgent reminders to get something finished. There are two solutions. The first is to work ahead and make sure when you do manage to take an afternoon off, you’ve finished the most pressing commitments or have delegated them. Second, learn to compartmentalize your thinking. This has saved my sanity many times.I tell myself that I won’t worry about or think about something until tomorrow. Or next Tuesday. I sometimes even put it on my calendar for that day. “Solve XYZ problem today.” Sometimes, when there’s too much to do, making an appointment to worry/solve the problem later is the only solution for happiness. For this purpose I recommend you to buy and use a monthly folder, with 31 compartments, each for every day (from 01. till 31. of every month), in which you put only the important paper document, which have a deadline on that specific day.
Smile! I’m a great believer in the fact that behavior determined attitude.
What that means is, if you act a certain way, you tend to feel that way. Change your behavior, and your attitude follows suit. Go out and exercise, and you tend to feel more active and energetic. Make yourself smile, and you tend to feel happier. So make a point to smile more this summer. For this strategy to work, you must be mindful, i.e., paying attention to your current FLOW state of mind. “Check” yourself if you find yourself frowning or feeling negative thoughts. Consciously put a smile on your face. Say a quick “thank you” to a higher being for the things that are right in your business and your life, instead of focusing on everything that’s wrong. I guarantee you will start to feel more upbeat and like life is fun.
Commit yourself now for next year’s vacation. Don’t make “no vacation” a habit. Put a deposit down now on next year’s beach vacation rental, or start shopping for camping equipment. Do something to commit yourself to a vacation. Then plan ahead, and work toward it.It’s all too easy to get into a routine of all work, work, work….Planning well ahead can make vacation doable — next year!
Change Your Scenery.
Maybe you don’t have the luxury of gazing out at the ocean or some other exotic landscape anytime soon, but changing your surroundings in more minor ways can still have some positive effects on your attitude and work ethic. Why? Well, various psychological experiments and studies have pointed out that—as humans—we’re incredibly context-dependent. Put simply, our environments cue us in on the various habits and behaviors we associate with those surroundings. So, if you’ve grown accustomed to feeling miserable and disheartened when staring at your same cluttered desktop or drab cubicle walls, it’s going to be that much harder to shake that emotion—unless you switch things up a little bit. This can be as simple as swapping out your computer background and adding a plant, a photo, or a new desk toy. Or, you can go all-in and totally rearrange the setup of your workspace. If you have a ton of flexibility in your office, you can try working from a different area—such as a shared lounge or even a picnic table outside.Rest assured, you don’t need to jet set to get a renewed perspective. Even these smaller changes can make a big difference in your overall outlook.
Switch Up Your Routines.
It’s human nature to stick with what we know—it’s called the “status quo bias.” We find a sense of comfort in the safe and predictable. But, every now and then, that can backfire: We white-knuckle our precious routines, even when they aren’t working for us anymore. With that in mind, being willing to make some tweaks to your daily habits and schedules can also have some positive effects. For one, you’ll find a renewed sense of focus. Neuroscientists have proven that our brains are always seeking novelty—we’re always keeping one eye open for that next bright and shiny thing. By making some changes (even small ones!) to your routine, you give your brain that sense of newness that it’s looking for—meaning you’ll enjoy increased focus on whatever it is you’re working on. Secondly, you’ll also improve your creative thinking. Straying away from your predictable systems and workflows increases your brain’s neuroplasticity—that is, it’s ability to form new connections between different thoughts. Put simply, having some flexibility in your routine also makes your brain more flexible. So, go ahead and move your afternoon workout to the morning before you head into the office. Or, make it a goal to eat lunch away from your desk, rather than working right through. You might be surprised by the results!
Unplug When You Can.
I know that you’re sick of people telling you to just unplug and disconnect when you’re feeling overworked. Tuning out your inbox and shutting off your phone isn’t always realistic—you have work to do, after all. However, don’t think of this as an instruction to totally disengage from your work. Instead, it’s an encouragement to identify those pockets of time when you could possibly put down your phone or step away from email to give yourself a much-needed break.Does your phone need to be the first thing you look at before you go to sleep and when you wake up? Do you need to be obsessively scrolling through your texts when you’re unwinding in front of the TV or enjoying dinner with a friend? No.You can’t disconnect completely, and I get that (trust me, I do!). However, give yourself permission to take a step back and unplug a little bit—at least when you’re not actively. You might not be able to take a full-blown vacation. But, even a little bit of time off from the constant pressure of your work life is sure to have a positive impact on your attitude and stress levels.Feeling like you’re on a hamster wheel of never-ending tasks and to-dos isn’t fun. And, it becomes especially difficult when you don’t have the light at the end of the tunnel—in the form of an upcoming vacation—to inspire you to keep pushing. If things are really bad and you’re feeling particularly overwhelmed and overworked, that situation very well might warrant a conversation with your boss about how you can unload some of your duties and achieve a more manageable workload. (And here a few tips for having that conversation.). However, if you feel like you just need some smaller changes to hit the reset button and renew your focus and outlook, these three adjustments can really make a big difference—no plane tickets required.
I do hope that this blog will help you to recharge a little bit, if you feel your FLOW batteries at a LOW level. If you want to receive weekly Newletters on FLOW, just register your self at the landing page of this website and enter your best email.