The productive value of vacation

I’m on vacation this week, sort of.  By “sort of,” I mean that I’m more or less alternating vacation and work days.  Today is a work day; tomorrow, I’ll be out playing.  The image to the left?  That’s where I spent part of Saturday and Sunday, reading some of the books that have been on my list for far too long — novels (I can now recommend Wally Lamb’s The Hour I First Believed) as well as business books (finally finishing Managing the Professional Services Firm, and I have a few more lined up as well).  I’m also doing some writing and client work on my “working vacation days,” and squeezing in some speaking as well.

A client asked me earlier today if I wouldn’t prefer to be fully on vacation or fully working.  Well, maybe.  I love my work, and it would be challenging to set it aside completely.  More notably, the truth is that I’m seeing some remarkable benefits from this “neither fish nor fowl” trip.  For example, I now have a long list of blog posts I’d like to write.  Same for newsletter articles.  You’d have to ask my clients to know for sure, but it seems to me that client meetings are going better than ever.  Why do you suppose this is?  Personally, I think it’s thanks to my vacation days.

You see, the last few months have been like sprinting a marathon.  I made the commitment to write a book in February and released The Reluctant Rainmaker in June.  I’ve been fortunate to have many speaking engagements over the past few months, and my client roster is growing.  A vacation has been overdue for some time now, and as my brain unwinds, the creativity is starting to percolate.

Recreation (for the purposes, pronounced re-creation) recharges, refreshes, re-energizes.  Without recreation, I (and you, and anyone you might imagine) become like an ignored pitcher of water.  Keep pouring out without replenishing the pitcher, and before long, there’s nothing left to pour.  To use time mastery terminology, recreation is a Quadrant II activity: not urgent, but important.  Absent extraordinary circumstances, no one will ever give you a deadline to take a vacation.

Fortunately, recreation isn’t limited to a vacation.  It can comes in short bursts (many consider a 15-minute meditation a quick and effective form of recreation) or in longer periods.  The key question is, what refreshes you?  What leaves you feeling as if you’ve replenished your “pitcher” of energy?  Identify several such activities (and snoozing in a hammock counts as activity for these purposes) and make sure you fit them into your schedule.  Yes, a long vacation is fabulous recreation — but it isn’t the only kind that will pay off with increased productivity upon your return.

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