Half of all Americans (48.4%) in a new survey say they took little or no vacation (37.4% said no vacation, 11% said 1-3 days) this summer. I'm off, just a little late, to join the 1-3 days crowd this weekend. Europeans seem to be getting more Americanized too, and not taking all of August off. I grew up with long, empty summer vacations, but kids today seem to have packed schedules through summers as well. A Twitter poll I'm running right now though, suggests I hang with a crowd that does rather better at managing work and downtime for better mental health. I'm convinced getting better recharges has to do with better mental models of vacations, not more time. You have to vacation smart to break smart. It's battery tech, not calendar tech.
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Vacationing smart in solar-powered supercharger station.
1/ Vacationing is more than just a cultural practice where your participation depends on your resources and norms around you.
2/ It is also a learned skill: you have to get good at vacationing smart in both material habits and mental habits.
3/ How quickly you can unwind and gather momentum again determines how effective your vacation and other relaxation habits are.
4/ I've been taking progressively less time "off" over the last two decades since leaving college, but getting much better at the skill of making it count.
5/ I can now get more of a recharge out of a weekend off than I could with a week off a decade ago. I'm also better at quick-recharges throughout the day/week.
6/ A big part of it of course, is going free-agent, which gives you a kind of control over time, attention, and energy management that a paycheck job does not.
7/ Another big part is not uncritically buying into ideas that you have to unplug digitally in order to relax. Or other such pastoral myths about relaxation.
8/ While exposure to nature and/or a change of scenery are a big part of vacationing smart, needing to 'disconnect' digitally means you haven't mastered your tools, they've mastered you
9/ I actually find it easier to take breaks now if I don't expect myself to clear the digital decks to inbox zero, or leave devices and workflows behind in a stabilized state.
10/ Your work life is not an ER patient. If it's a high-stress spike of work getting it 'stabilized' before you can take a break, you're doing something wrong.
11/ Like 'night mode' on phones, 'vacation mode' in workflow simply means you shift digital workflows to a different 'mood'
12/ Some streams are on pause, others slow down, still others change character. Maybe you tweet pictures instead of tech-news links. Maybe chat with a different crowd online.
13/ Vacation auto-responders are for amateurs. If you can't field a critical email while on the beach, and get right back to relax-mode, your vacation-fu game is off.
14/ Vacationing smart means different things to different people, but what you cannot avoid is thinking through what it means to you.
15/ To simply mimic somebody else's relaxation rituals and habits uncritically is to guarantee you won't actually relax or recharge. You'll just be larping local relaxation ceremonies.
16/ Still though, I have a lot more to learn, so I'm off to work on my relaxation skills in British Columbia for the weekend.
17/ So I'll stop here with a shorter-than-usual tweetstorm portion. See you next week!
Note: thanks to those who pointed out the formatting error last week, which led to the tweetstorm part being repeated twice. Apologies for any reading annoyance that may have caused.
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Check out the 20 Breaking Smart Season 1 essays for the deeper context behind this newsletter. If you're interested in bringing the Season 1 workshop to your organization, get in touch. You can follow me on Twitter @vgr
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