From rushed to relaxed: how to slow down on vacation

From rushed to relaxed: how to slow down on vacation

Here in France, despite the media frenzy around the recent elections and the upcoming Paris Olympic Games, the hottest topic on most people’s minds is currently the summer holidays. The schools have now broken up for the next two months; I can feel my clients winding down after a frantic June; and all the magazine covers are screaming the same thing from the newsstands: it’s summer, time to rest and relax.

It’s easier said than done, though, isn’t it?

We spend much of our working lives rushing: rushing to meet deadlines, whizzing through a tunnel of back-to-back meetings, struggling to get through an ever-expanding to-do list. Then, at home, we rush some more: straight to school to pick up the children, then bath, dinner, and a hastily read story. Or maybe we speed out of the office towards our evening social engagement. At the weekend we plough through administration, shopping, housework, garden maintenance… The comment I hear from many clients who live like this is that when they get to what for many represents their final destination – that is to say, their summer annual leave – they are fried and worn out but simultaneously incapable of slowing down for the rest they desperately need.

Ultimately, the sustainable answer to this perennial problem is to work towards a life with more balance and peace all year long. However, if you are currently looking forward to a couple of weeks off work, the question of how to put on the brakes and start reaping the benefits of vacation time as soon as it begins might currently be more pressing. Here are some techniques to help you step into holiday mode intentionally, switching off and going from full throttle to meandering to smell the roses much more quickly.

1. Manage your team’s expectations

In this day and age, it is simply unrealistic for many executives I work with not to look at email or the phone at all while they are on holiday. That said, for some people, it is actually possible but they find the concept unthinkable. So, a few weeks before you go away, have a serious talk with your manager, colleagues and direct reports about how often and when you plan to check your emails. Agree, if necessary, on when you will call them and – depending on your level of responsibility – under what circumstances they should consider it necessary to call you.

2. Schedule close-up time

Block out the second half of your last work day before holidays in your calendar. Spend this time finalising anything you can, writing your to-do list for when you get back, sending handover emails that might help keep things ticking over while you are gone, putting on your out-of-office reply, and generally closing up shop. As far as possible, accept no meetings or catch-ups at all the day before you are due to have time off. If you work from home, make sure you clear away and put out of sight anything work-related.

3. Close your mental filing cabinet

On your last day before holidays, after you leave the office, or power down your laptop and desk if you are working remotely, visualise yourself closing the files you’ve been working on and locking the filing cabinet. In your mind’s eye, watch yourself shutting documents and closing email. You may have already done this for real, but repeating it mentally sends an extra signal to your brain that you are closed for business.

4. Deal with your phone

Turn your phone off (or leave it in a drawer) for as much of your vacation as possible, checking it once or twice a day only when you schedule that time for yourself. If, like me, you use your phone to take photos, putting it on airplane mode usually does the trick. Airplane mode is often enough to increase the friction (unlock screen, open settings, deactivate airplane mode) between you and your texts/emails/social media accounts, to the point that the phone becomes just a camera and you don’t even consider having a quick look at Instagram or opening WhatsApp while it’s in your hand.

5. Substitute activity

It can be hard going from fifth to first gear overnight, so make at least the first few days of your vacation about active play. By planning things to do, you can pour your work energy into having fun, thereby allowing you to transition slowly from being on the go and “doing” to taking your time and simply “being”.

6. Set your intention

Take a moment at the beginning of your holiday to set your intention. Beyond rest and relaxation, what do you want from this time? Perhaps you’d like to reconnect with your spouse, or play with your children. Maybe you want to manifest more gratitude or you’d like to make the next two weeks all about embracing the unexpected. Try to make your intention about how you want to be rather than anything you might want to achieve. Setting your intention helps you connect to your bigger goals and can offer a sense of perspective on life. It can also give you a watchword or guiding principle to check in with that might help if the temptation to work gets too strong or your “rush mode” rears its ugly head.

7. Remind yourself you are not indispensable

I saw an image on LinkedIn recently that I felt compelled to share with my husband. It said, simply: “The only people for whom you are truly indispensable are your friends and family”. Yes, you need to keep your job to ensure you can put food on the table, but for most of us, that’s not why we’re checking email on the beach or leaving the dinner table to take a call. In five years’ time, the only people who will remember that you worked late, dealt with work issues during leave, and returned calls while on holiday will be your spouse and your children.

Are you living your life in rush mode? Do you find yourself constantly striving, struggling, hustling, and speeding through the days? Would you like to find a way to get through your to-do list with greater ease, peace, and perhaps even a little grace? Working with a grounded, empathetic, and practical coach can help you adopt new ways of working and living that can serve you better, boosting both your wellbeing and your results. Contact me to find out more about working together.