It’s the time of year when we’re preparing to hit the road, the beach or the mountains and recharge our batteries so we will be able to hit things hard for the rest of the year. Unfortunately, in our “down” time, we often don’t benefit, mostly for a couple of reasons.
1. We’re still too “wired” to gain much from the experience. Stress isn’t resident at our desks, it lives in us! We take it along–rather than maximizing time off to learn skills to deal with stress in healthy ways.
2. We don’t plan the time away, so the vacation adds stress (by doing too much, adding to our debt load, or traveling too far for instance).
I’d suggest 3 goals to make sure your down time is really that.
Reconnect with people (spouse, children, extended family, close friends). Relationships often are sacrificed for work; this is a great time to reestablish bonds.
Refocus on your purpose and passion. This isn’t just about work. It’s some concrete time when you’ll strategize for the long haul, praying and thinking deeply about where life ought to be headed and where it in reality is.
Refine your direction. Midcourse correction think time might just be one of the greatest benefits of down time. No one is aiming precisely at long term vision and goals. In your down time you will discover courage to make necessary changes—courage that’s hard to summon in the whirlwind of everyday.
If those are my goals, what facilitates reaching them while enjoying time away? I’d suggest:
Unplug with intention. Consider going digital free for a major part of your down time! Studies say that despite the great convenience of connectedness, technology raises stress levels! So, consider going somewhere (a cruise or remote cabin for instance) that offers no or very expensive cell coverage. Make a decision ahead of time that you’re unplugging except for emergency situations.
If you can’t completely get away from your devices, agree with the office (or family members) on how much you’ll be available or at what hours of the day. Set your email with a vacation auto response. Include the contact info of who can help during your absence). Commit with the individuals with whom you’re traveling that you won’t check email more than a certain number of times during the days you’re “unplugged.”
Discuss a “no TV” plan (or other limits on your digital drugs) and discover how much you can enjoy being unplugged.
Unwind with recharging in mind. Figure out how to include some rich times with the people you love and who love you. Ask yourself: what would deepen conversation, add fun experiences and memory-building? Think and plan ahead for both fun and serious times which will build unity in relationships.
Instead of planning to just relax, add some activity or exercise which will charge you physically and mentally. Studies reveal that exercise increases cognition. It stands to reason that no movement and lots of rich food won’t refresh you, nor prepare you for the challenges when you return to responsibilities.
Spend time with activities you deeply enjoy. Example: read something you normally don’t read, but know you’d enjoy. Novels that challenge and free your thinking can be good; “fresh approach” or motivational books will invite reflection. Nonfiction that’s outside your area of expertise or experience will stretch your brain. Plan time reflecting on how things are really going in all the areas of your life. Early mornings alone might be a perfect time for some reflection and reorientation time.
Do some re-capping, listing, journaling. The idea isn’t to fixate on “what’s back home” and what you’re trying to get away from–it’s to download your mind and heart in some kind of orderly fashion, so as your mind won’t be occupied with random thoughts, feelings and ideas. Our minds get satisfied that “things will be handled” when things are on paper. Random thoughts won’t pop up nearly so much then, while you’re on a break.
Plan for your down time and it will provide amazing benefits.
How could you gain the widest variety of benefit from your down time this summer?
Extra credit question: How can you take some of the above and apply them to some down time every week and every month?