I recently took my first real vacation in a few years, right during the middle of busy operations. I was away for almost 10 days and was committed to not spending time on email or constantly checking in. A little over two years since we launched our product and we've been undergoing the usual growing pains, and I'm sure some unusual ones, so I always try to stay on top of everything. Toward the end of my trip, I decided to document the emotional phases I went through, which are pretty tongue in cheek, but also pretty accurate.
Stage 1: Terror
Oh. My. Gosh. The world is probably burning and I'm Nero fiddling. (This is literally a thought I had.)
Stage 2: Acceptance
Ok the noise level is getting quieter, I can do this. The reports I've reviewed show progress is being made across departments.
I don't need to micro manage everything anyway, right?
Stage 3: Quiet
All the noise is quieting down, and what's left are the things that matter. Practically, email checking drops from every few hours to daily.
Stage 4: Questioning
Do I really want to go back home, or can I stay on this beach? Things are under control and I can probably just direct from here with the big ideas I now clearly understand. (See Stage 3, Quiet)
Stage 5: Yearning
Days and days of mild to mediocre productivity at best have taken their toll and the intense "NEED-to-get-back-in-the-game" feeling takes over. The quiet has brought intense clarity and there is a fire to execute in a focused way.
Stage 6: Re-assimilation
Ideas and focus are clear, prioritization around big ideas is well-formed enough to jot on the hotel notepad. Now, a plan comes together for the company and I'm ready to hit the ground running.
All joking aside, taking time away from intense action is one of the most important things a leader can do. In order to be most useful to your team and fire on all cylinders, your brain, no matter how invested you are in one project, needs the quiet to reprioritize and reset.
So how can you do it best? It takes time and you should plan ahead: Make clear lines of delegation for things that might arise while you're away. Turn off notifications. Take at least 5 work days, and some time to not be filled with activities every second. Take time to be quiet, meditate or pray. Read. Maybe even something about the history of your industry or a leader that is respected -- it's a great way to bring a wide angle perspective to thinking.
Our brains are more like computers than we realize, and when too many apps are running, sometimes it's best to restart, in order to bring that clarity and creativity that you've been searching for. When you take a minute (or week) for yourself, you'll be amazed at what that 'reset' button will do for you and your company.