I closed out a long weekend on the East Coast over dinner with two dear friends, over a decade removed from our adventure through Europe. That “vacation” was an escape from reality that included way too many Mykonos sunrise celebrations and serious hangovers. I remember returning home from that trip exhausted. We had fun reminiscing for a few minutes about our time in Greece, but today I can’t help but reflect on how much times have changed.
That dinner conversation quickly shifted from a walk down memory lane into a purpose-inspired conversation focused almost entirely on our shared commitment to inner work and growth. The great food and wine also included plenty of sharing, emotional support and consensus in signing off on attacking our next bit of reading together for a “book club” exchange. Lights out at 11.
That represents a pretty significant transition in my approach to vacation. As my August “offseason” comes to a close, it’s clear I’ve come to prefer making at least a portion of my down time matter. I’m trying to get better, and I think a sabbatical is the perfect catalyst to do exactly that.
While sabbaticals are still rare in corporate America, their presence is increasing rapidly. According to a survey from the Society for Human Resource Management, the proportion of companies offering sabbaticals (both paid and unpaid) rose to nearly 17 percent of employers in 2017. The research is proving that sabbaticals are not only great for employees, but that the organization also benefits when employees are offered extended time away.
In addition to helping brands attract and retain top talent, encouraging employees to schedule a much-needed break helps workers avoid burnout and embrace balance, and it’s also a fantastic opportunity to stress-test the organizational chart and offer aspiring leaders the chance to grow.
My August offseason has become a sacred ritual for me, both personally and for our business. It gives me time to reflect, rejuvenate and get intentional about the direction of our work for the next 18 months. Working “on” myself and the business (as opposed to just “in” the business) is how I ensure that I am building a business and life I love.
While I recognize that a 30-day sabbatical might not be realistic for everyone, taking even small amounts of time away can provide powerful perspective and be a catalyst to jump-start success. Here are a few simple ideas for making down time count.
Schedule Time for Reflection
If you look out over the horizon, where do you really want your business and your life to be?
Once you decide what you want, you can direct your focus and your resources toward those things. When you have that kind of clarity and vision, you’re so much more likely to get what you want. It’s easier to eliminate distractions and navigate the daily decisions that can tend to take us off track.
What gets scheduled gets done, so take steps to regularly give yourself an opportunity to rejuvenate, reset and expand your perspective. I’m starting to think I might enjoy life more if I started every day with a killer cup of bulletproof coffee, followed by a long stroll on the beach, a journaling session and a little bit of yoga. That kind of morning routine does the mind, soul and body good.
Schedule Time With Absolutely Nothing Scheduled
Like a good work day, your vacations also need plenty of white space. So give yourself time each day to step back and think.
It may feel strange to leave your days open like this, especially if you’ve been vacationing on a work hard/play hard model, but long breaks have proven to be a catalyst to unleash both clarity and creativity. So often, our very best ideas emerge when we are simply doing nothing at all.
For many of us, including me, carving out white space might also mean rethinking our relationship with our phones. The typical cellphone user touches his or her phone 2,617 time every day, according to a study by research firm Dscout. But that’s just the average user: The study found that extreme cellphone users — meaning the top 10% — touch their phones more than 5,400 times daily! A level of connection approaching addiction is wreaking havoc on our ability to both relax and reset. Trust me and try a 48 hour total digital detox. You’ll be amazed at what you notice!
Stay In The Learning Lane
During your away time, look for new ways to break out of your comfort zone and stay in the learning lane. For me that always includes a few good books and this August I have completely opted out of television in favor or YouTube programming where the learning runs deep. You could also try to experiment in little ways by breaking up your routine and passing a new test. I’ve learned how to surf. I’ve learned how to ski. I conquered my first ropes course, and next summer I’ve signed up to summit a mountain. I am not sure how much longer I’ll be able to sustain the action/adventure experiences, so I am attacking while I can!
Trust me, surfing for the first time was humbling. So was my slalom down the bunny slope. My perspective: so what?! I like the idea of adopting a beginners mindset. It keeps me curious. Life offers myriad personal tests for those willing to embrace them and I find the kind of learning I experience during a breakthrough can be extended into my daily living, helping me move a little closer toward my vision.
Design Your Own Offseason
Elite athletes spend about 90 percent of their time preparing for the 10 percent of time they’re in the arena of competition. The offseason is when elite performers grow. Even ‘The King’, Lebron James, invests $1.5 million annually every off season to keep his body in tip top shape. You don’t have to be on the cusp of an NBA championship or have a baller budget to leverage this technique. To the contrary, the off-season is a winning concept anyone can leverage to serve as a catalyst to create momentum and accelerate growth.
It’s why I’ll continue to invest in the most expensive vacation of my life every August.
As my 2018 off season comes to a close one thing I know for certain: The best investment you can make is an investment in YOU!