If you are the founder of a high-growth business, it's imperative you take time off to recharge your batteries and rejuvenate. Studies prove vacations make you more creative, more focused, and more productive in the long run. And a startup is all about the long run.
But we've all had this problem: you come back from vacation and you are immediately overwhelmed with pent-up demands, one or two (or three) burning crises, and of course, email, email, email! By the end of the first day it seems like the relaxed afterglow and perspective you got are all gone and you're launched back into the fire of the daily urgent.
To counteract that feeling of despair, make sure you grow from your time off by doing these three things as soon as you get back:
1. Reflect on your experiences. What were the most joyful moments of your vacation and why? Are there things you can do when you get back that will help you taste that fun again? What insights did you have? What perspective did you get about your life or work or your team?
On my last vacation, I visited close friends on Cape Cod. We did a lot of fun things! On the flight home, as I reflected on the highlights of my trip, I realized the most joyful times were when we were just hanging around and chatting. That made me realize I need to find more time to be with friends, especially friends I don't live near or see that often. So I decided to make sure to include "friend visits" on my upcoming business trips. Looking forward to those visits will sweeten the trips.
Remember to take the time to reflect immediately after your vacation to crystallize your insights.
2. Jot down some notes for yourself, or write in a journal or in a document on your computer. This will help you make sense of your insights and help you maintain clarity. It will also help you savor your memories, so you can hold on to them longer.
One CEO I coach was struck by a quote he saw while he was on vacation last year. He wrote it on three sticky notes: "Nothing is perfect; nothing is finished; nothing lasts forever." He stuck these to his computer, and he told me recently that he still looks at each of these sentences when he gets upset, and they calm him down.
What are the most important things you want to remember from your vacation? Jot them down on a sticky note and put them next to your computer to remind you.
Insights are wonderful, but nothing changes unless you change your actions. Decide on one specific change you want to make. It's helpful to think of one behavior you want to start doing, stop doing, or double-down on.
3. Then write a miniature action plan--take 10 minutes and think about two questions: 1) how will you integrate this when the going gets tough? 2) How will you recover when you inevitably forget?
One founder I coach went on a family vacation two years ago -- she had just landed her Series B funding and she needed a break and to reconnect with her family after the grueling fundraising process. One day her 6-year-old son told her bluntly, "Mommy, you always tell me a better way to do something. I just want to do it my own way." With a start she realized that her direct reports could easily say the same thing and probably did behind her back!
She vowed to check her instinct to intervene with her direct reports. She wrote "sounds great" on a sticky by her computer as a way to remind herself what to say instead of giving her team a small, not so very valuable correction. Her action plan was: 1) She would remind herself multiple times a day to not "add too much value." 2) When she forgot, she decided to recover by simply going back to the person she over-corrected and telling them to forget what she said; do it the way they were planning to. That would certainly get their attention, and it would serve as a reminder to her to stop over-correcting people.
When you are conscious about how you will use an insight, you are more likely to do it. Creating a two-step action plan makes you more conscious.
Try these three tools and see if you can banish the vacation doldrums.