Lessons from a working vacation.

Sep 6, 2016 | Anne's Blog

anne-dickinson-lessons-working-vacationSeptember has arrived and with it cooler, less humid weather.  We’re still woefully short on rain here in the Northeast, but it’s downright heavenly to have to throw on a sweatshirt in the morning to ward off the chill.  One of these days I may even have to add socks, but let’s not push it too much.

So I recently spent time in Florida on a working vacation — hey, who doesn’t love Florida in August?!  My daypack was my office and in it was a tablet, a few files, a pad of paper, chargers and a mouse.  In my pocket was my cell phone.  As long as I had access to wifi, I had what was needed to keep my business running while being a thousand miles away from home.

It was interesting to learn a few lessons along the way that hadn’t really sunk in previously.  These aren’t new revelations to the world and perhaps you’ve known them all along.  For me, these insights became clearer as did the impact they can have on one’s business.  So here are 3 lessons from my working vacation.

  1. Make sure you have the right tools for the job.  I didn’t.  The tablet I took with me is a very versatile piece of equipment, but it’s distinctly sub-optimal for making charts in Excel spreadsheets that will then be used in upcoming presentations.  What should have taken maybe an hour or so to create, took hours upon hours.  The screen is really too small for me to be able to view both the spreadsheet and chart simultaneously, so there was a ridiculous amount of back and forth silliness required.  The other major impediment had to do with a recent forced update to the system that changed the look and feel of the tablet enough to seriously mess with my productivity.  So there was a lot of frustration that could have been avoided or at least significantly lessened with a different tool.  So I am now researching what and whether to invest in so that future business trips and working vacations are more seamlessly productive.
  2. Use the same methodology for your daily “To Do” list and your ‘what we’ll do/see on vacation’ as is recommended for packing. Pack and then take out a third of what you packed before closing the suitcase.   OK, despite nearly always only taking a carry-on suitcase, I confess packing for trips is still very much a work in process for me in terms of taking just enough and enough to cover every possible ‘what if’ scenario.  That said, my daily To Do list is now never more than six items and 2 – 3 are generally tasks that can be completed quickly utilizing minimal brain power.  Keeping the list short and accomplishable makes the end of the day far more satisfying when most, if not all are checked off.  That goes for vacation to do lists also — I arrived at my friends’ home to a tentative written schedule packed with activities, all of which would be fun.  In the end, we did maybe a third of them.  All were great and fun and there were also two little teeny voices in my head saying back and forth, ‘what a great time!’ and ‘I’m bummed with didn’t do A or D or L’.  Keep To Do lists short and feel great every time the big bold check mark gets applied to each task.
  3. Changing up your environment periodically can have a terrific positive impact on your productivity.  While my friends were at their jobs, I focused on getting through my ‘to do’ list so that when we were all together, we could focus on the vacation part.  In my office, I can get distracted by other things I feel I should be doing, by things happening outside my window, by my canine assistant seeking attention.  It can be harder for me to focused and then guilt can easily creep into the picture.  Knowing I had a limited chunk of time to work each day while in Florida, I made the most of it.  No distractions.  I sat at a table and did my work.  It was simultaneously productive and re-energizing.  Focused.  Task and thought filled.  And when the first of my friends reappeared from their job and said, “let’s go get a beer at The Dock”, I was able to say “OK!” guilt free.  The working break allowed me to get re-centered and return to my home environment recharged and still having moved ahead while I was away.   Sometimes a complete break from work is necessary to recharge — and sometimes just a change in environment can make a world of difference.

Now I’m back from my working vacation and more excited than ever about the future.  Later this week I’m back on a plane to California to attend three different events in twelve days.  I’ll be supporting the first for a friend and colleague, and speaking at the other two.  And that means lots of airplane time!  For me that is time to think, time to read, time to plan, time to sleep and always an adventure and you just can’t beat a good adventure.  Yes, I love to fly.

So seek a periodic change in environment to re-focus and improve your productivity.  Increased productivity equates to plugging profit leaks and we all know that plugged profit leaks equates to higher profits (come on, you know I couldn’t write this without a reference profit leaks at least once).