Make time off count so you can recharge

Summer's speeding by and many of you are planning some time off. We all need time to recharge our batteries and get a fresh perspective-particularly in light of the fact that we all seem to be working longer and harder than ever. How do you handle your free time? Here are some thoughts to consider:

·        Take at least a week of vacation at a time. Some people think that the company will sink if they aren't there to keep it afloat. They only take vacation a day or two at a time so they never really have an opportunity to distance themselves from their work. Executives are especially guilty of this, explaining that they need to be on site "in case something comes up."

·        People who don't take time off can get so close to their tasks that they lose perspective. They often take themselves and their work far too seriously and it becomes the only driving force in their lives.

Managers and executives who are afraid to leave their jobs for long periods of time haven't done a good job of developing their employees to make decisions on their own. This kind of over- control will rob employees of opportunities to take on more responsibility and learn new skills. If employees don't have enough information or experience to take over for the boss, it's no one's fault but the boss's. In fact, it's a sign of poor management.

·        Use all your vacation. It's a benefit designed to refresh you and keep you performing at your peak. People sometimes think that giving up vacation is a sign of dedication...I think it's a sign of delirium. Constantly carrying vacation over from year to year without taking it defeats the purpose. In fact, many companies try to force employees to take their vacation by making it impossible to carry over vacation and refusing to exchange it for cash.

·        When you do take a vacation, don't contact the office or shop unless you absolutely have to. The trouble with calling in and checking up on things is that you'll feel as if you never left. What's worse, you'll become frustrated if you hear about a problem because you're too far away to do anything about it.

If your co-workers know you won't be calling in they won't save up all the little problems for you when you call. They will be forced to act on their own and think for themselves. If you anticipate problems while you're gone, sit down with the person authorized to make decisions in your absence and run through the possibilities and parameters. If you feel you must be accessible, outline the kinds of situations that are serious enough to warrant a call.

·        Avoid bringing work along on your vacation. Every day you'll be haunted by that stack of papers or beckoning briefcase. Who needs the guilt? There's enough of that during the regular workweek without creating it while you're supposed to be relaxing and getting away from it all. Do as much of it as you can before you leave and delegate the rest. Whatever can't be given away can usually wait.

·        Give yourself a day to ease back into the job. If you're away on a vacation you may want to build in a day of vacation at home before you have to return to work. There's mail to collect, bills to pay, laundry to do and let's not forget the mental adjustment that's needed before you go back to work. The danger of jumping back in immediately is that you feel more frazzled than before you left and all the relaxing benefits of your vacation are lost.

·        Consider a vacation that is very different from your job. For instance a busy executive who takes a trip to Europe and packs every day with scheduled events may feel as rushed and structured as when he or she is at work. If your job is fast paced, consider a slower paced vacation; if your job is filled with people contact, consider a quieter time on your vacation.

·        The first day back, try to schedule a light day. You'll want some time for reentry; talking to co-workers, reading your mail, meeting with the person who covered for you, and just getting used to the idea of getting back to work. If your vacation was everything it should be, your job will look a little foreign-just the fresh perspective you needed. 

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
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