A vacation is not supposed to be structured, intentional, or even remotely scheduled.
Or is it?
For smart business travelers, a vacation that is incredibly random is also not that useful or even fun. Like a status meeting or a brainstorming session, parameters really help.
Ask anyone who runs a company and you will hear about being intentional--even when it comes to down-time and brainstorming with a team. Why is that we sometimes sit by the pool in Orlando with absolutely no plan? Even if the plan is "sit by the pool for four hours" it always helps to have some structure to your leisure activities.
That's why I've created this 17-minute daily routine to help you get the most out of a break or any extended time away. It's intended to help you focus in the morning and pick the activities you want to do, schedule your relaxation so it's even more relaxing, and return home after a break being able to say you were focused and deliberate enough on the beach to make it all worthwhile. It's all about aiming for something grand,
So--why 17 minutes? When I wrote about the seven-minute morning routine not long ago, it was based on a scientific concept of sustained attention span, which lasts 5-10 minutes (I split the difference at seven). At work, that time period won't cut into a meeting or your projects. On vacation, you can take more time to collect your thoughts, think through your goals, and set the tone for the day. You can do this morning routine alone or with your fellow travelers each morning as a group. And, have fun doing it. Don't worry about being overly specific, just set goals you can easily attain. Here's what to do:
1. Before you start: Prepare
Seriously, a vacation should be well-planned. I'm not talking about Clark Griswold in a National Lampoon movie, rushing through the national sites like it's a race or keeping a checklist at all times. Being prepared means going into a vacation with a journal you can use for taking notes in the morning, a good pen, a decision about where to do this morning routine (say, the hotel patio), and carving out the time. Most of us rush into the day on vacation, but it's better to set aside time to think and plan.
2. First 5 minutes: List your plans and goals
Before you grab the suntan lotion or a golf bag, sit down in a quiet spot and think about the day ahead. You may already have a rough plan, but write down every possible idea. Where will you eat lunch? How long will you tour a city? What are the sites you really want to see? Who will join you and why? How long do you really want to spend at Disneyland? Having some plans and goals means you might attain those plans and goals. It's too easy to be random.
3. Next 5 minutes: Schedule your day
Once you have a good idea of what you want to do, spend the next five minutes scheduling things out. Again, this is not about acting like a vacation overlord who schedules every minute. It;s about getting the most out of your free time. Make sure you leave a lot of margins for transportation delays, tangents and spontaneous adventures, and adjustments for the people who will join you for the day. You really want to eat seafood--OK, plan that out. Want to play 18 holes? Set the timeframe. Be ready to adjust the plan if everyone else has a different goal.
4. Next 5 minutes: Do a sanity check
During this part of the routine, you should reflect on whether that golf outing or the time at the pool will help you accomplish your goals for the break. Be intentional about this. Make adjustments and weed out anything that's a distraction or not that important. Maybe it means an entire side trip to a shopping mall with friends is going to cause too much stress. Maybe driving along the coast will cause too many delays later--and you did that last year anyway. The key is to think through what you're actually doing and why, and if it all adds up.
5. Last 2 minutes: Make it all add up
Each morning, after you finish the routine, make sure you spend the last two minutes reflecting on how the day will help you accomplish your overall goals you have for the trip. If you see something you wrote down that doesn't make you think "that's valuable" for the vacation, cross it off and make some changes. This is the most important step--does the trip add up to a worthwhile break that will leave you refreshed and ready to get back to work? You'll be surprised, if you do this each morning, that the vacation suddenly becomes a winner.