Switch off, unplug, go dark--all of this is the latest advice directing leaders down the wrong path. It goes against today's common wisdom, but completely shutting down while on vacation will stifle your creativity. How many times have you had a brilliant idea at a restaurant or while working out?

Something unique happens to our minds when we relax: We consider different possibilities, experiment with new thoughts, and open up to ideas we may previously have discounted. Vacation time is the perfect time to let your mind wander and explore possibilities for the future--for you and for your company.

Four Creativity-Boosting Exercises to Use on Vacation:

  1. Imagine the life you want to lead.

This is best done at the top of a ski mountain, on a boat in the middle of the ocean, or lazing on a beach. Preferably do this with someone who knows you really well, but you can also talk to yourself. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What kind of life do I want to create for myself and those closest to me?
  • What do I need to do today and this year to achieve that?
  • If I had the life, the income, and the discretionary time that I desire, how would I live my life?

Getting inspired about the future you want to create for yourself will force you to look creatively at what you need to do to achieve it--fast.

  1. How could you radically increase the value you provide to your current and future customers?

Let your mind wander, and think without the usual restraints. Consider the following:

  • Imagine if you could absolutely delight your customers, what would they need? How could you provide it?
  • Avoid thinking about your current products or your current competitors, and imagine two years from now. How you could wow your customers with your products or services?
  • Let your mind wander but eventually capture your ideas by drawing or by recording yourself talking, or in some other way.

Thinking without the shackles of your current product roadmap and resource constraints can produce unexpected creative results.

  1. Is everyone on your team in their perfect job?
  • Forget about titles for a second. If you could create the perfect job for each person on your team--a job that leverages their strengths--what would that look like? Don't put any boundaries around your thoughts. Don't think about how people would react to a job change; Answer the question with your gut reaction.
  • Are you even in your perfect job?

A year is a long time, and a little distance can allow you to see more clearly. After you have been in a role for a year, it is crucial to regularly reevaluate whether everyone is in their perfect job. Take advantage of the time and distance that vacation affords, and keep the creative ideas flowing.

  1. Send yourself a postcard.
  • Take a picture of your favorite holiday memory--a sunset, your favorite restaurant, or an inspiring piece of art.
  • Next, write a letter to yourself as if you were advising a trusted colleague.
  • What advice would you give yourself if you wanted to improve the probability of achieving what you thought about in the previous exercises?
  • Seal the envelope and wait a week before you open it so you can hear your own advice with fresh ears.

Often we know what to do, but for a variety of reasons we don't do it. By giving yourself the advice you know you really need, you can face the reality of who you are and who you can become.

Working on vacation should not be totally off limits. Yet if you want to boost your creativity, you have to create some silence for yourself. You can't simply move from your office chair to a deck chair and continue working, answering email and taking calls. Break some habits when you are on holiday. Delete social media apps from your phone, leave your phone in the hotel safe each day, and empower your team before you leave to handle everything.

Who knows where your mind will take you!

Published on: Apr 29, 2015