While most columns and blogs this time of year are focused on planning, budgeting and gaining clarity about what you want to accomplish in the next 12 months, I’m going to take a slightly different approach.
As most of my readers and clients already know, I’m a huge proponent of life design first and business design second. This surprises many people because I do have a very busy travel schedule facilitating my coaching and training programs. I spend the vast majority of my time away from my service business, allowing my superb leadership team the freedom and ability to run the daily operations in the way they see best. I primarily create my own schedule but I hadn’t taken much time for a completely uninterrupted vacation in a while.
A couple months ago, I returned from another extended absence from my service business and this time it was because I took the time to slow down and take a real vacation. In the future, I’ll write more regarding the specific business lessons I learned from this trip, which brought us to seven countries in just over two weeks. There’s a lot to learn on vacation, especially when you’re getting out of your comfort zone, and this trip certainly held some lessons for me.
As much as I travel, I’m always connected to my clients and my leadership team via email and cell phone. Even when I spent a month in Australia earlier this year, I still remained very connected. The biggest obstacle to staying in touch during that trip was working around the time difference in order to speak with my team in the U.S. while coaching and consulting during the day in Australia.
However, on this recent trip we took a “no work” vacation, where I purposely checked out completely. I didn’t have access to email, the Internet or cell phone service for multiple consecutive days. Every few days I would pop into an Internet cafe and scan emails, simply checking for any emergencies. (My team handles such things anyway; this was more about me than them.) I love what I do and love my team, so I do miss them when I’m away for long periods of time.
As company leaders, I believe we need to “check out” periodically and let our team handle the day-to-day operations, as difficult as this may be for many entrepreneurs and leaders. If you’re consistently making the everyday decisions and handling each challenge that arises, you’re denying your team valuable opportunities for learning and growth.
Slow down to go fasterAll of us need a break now and then. And by break, I mean a real break. My experience on this trip included several destinations in Italy that my lovely wife, Christy, really wanted to visit. I’m shocked by how inspired this vacation made me regarding business and what’s possible. I was completely disconnected from my company and normal routine, so my mind was allowed to become more open to new possibilities and different ways of thinking.
I understand that many of you will discount this concept as fluff. You might come up with a whole list of reasons why you can’t possibly disconnect from that nagging cell phone for more than the time it takes to use the restroom. (Although how many times have you seen people on the phone in the restroom … seriously?) But I encourage you to simply let this resonate for a little while after you read this column.
How refreshed would you be if you took a real break, even if it was just one day, without that crazy phone interrupting you every five minutes?
Presently, I am involved with several different business ventures and I was able to realize a whole new vision and level of clarity, all while on vacation. I genuinely checked out of my daily routine and was able to free up necessary space in my mind to ask myself some very powerful questions. It is virtually impossible to visit places such as Rome and Venice and not walk away completely dumbfounded, questioning a ton of things with a fresh perspective. That being said, you don’t have to fly halfway around the world to make this work for you.
Simply plan some time away from the company. Grab a sandwich and take it to the park for lunch with the personal understanding that you won’t check email or answer your phone for the entire lunch hour. Do some quality reading or listen to some positive business or personal development information, completely uninterrupted.
You might be surprised how difficult this can be for many of us. Here’s a tip: Leave your phone in the car or at the office. You’ll feel like a fish out of water, but this way you can’t answer your phone or even be tempted to look at it.
For those of you who, like me, are always thinking about business and strategy even when you’re not physically at work, just give this a shot at whatever level you’re comfortable with. You’ll find yourself solving challenges and problems in your head and coming up with fresh ideas that you won’t believe.
Quite honestly, I didn’t even realize how attached I was to my phone. That sneaky little time-wasting device can be your best friend when it’s used to help you become more efficient while mobile, but also can be your worst enemy in terms of recharging your batteries and spending quality time with your family, friends or yourself. It might be uncomfortable for you, but trust me when I tell you that it’s worth it.
My friend and mentor Frank Blau, who used to write for this great publication, taught me many years ago the importance of planning a break. He used to take a couple months at a time and stay on his boat in Florida, letting his team figure out the challenges while he was gone. He did this before smartphones and all this technology we use today even existed.
The underlying message here is to challenge yourself. Break the daily cycle of checking your phone, email, and social media constantly, and you’ll be surprised by how much more effective this will help you become in the long run. The greatest growth opportunity you have (personally and professionally) exists right outside your comfort zone. So leave your comfort zone behind for a little while and plan an uninterrupted break. You’ll thank me for it!