5 ways leaders can use downtime to re-energise

Experts

This year is providing us with a well-earned opportunity for a rejuvenating change of scenery. 
Leave should be seen as a valuable leadership and business opportunity not to be wasted. 
Leave should be seen as a valuable leadership and business opportunity not to be wasted.  | Image source: Getty Images

With the holiday season fast approaching many of us are planning to take a break and after a couple of years when holidays and vacations away from home were thin on the ground, this year is providing us with a well-earned opportunity for a rejuvenating change of scenery. 

Here are 5 things you can do to ensure your time off gives you the mental and physical break you need. 

Take an 8-day holiday

Research says that the optimal length of a vacation is eight days.  We need that time to destress , and let go of work and responsibilities. It takes a day to wind down after which we settle into a relaxed routine. After 8 days we start to feel the pull back to our normal life and routine. 

The benefits of an eight-day vacation go beyond the vacation itself with  vacationers report they’re sleeping better, feeling diminished stress, and experiencing an overall feeling of wellbeing long after returning home.

The study further noted, “Asking why we should keep going on vacations is…comparable to asking why we should go to sleep considering the fact that we get tired again.”

Plan to be unplanned

This sounds counterintuitive and one of the best ways to unwind is to feel like you don’t need to be anywhere or be on for anyone or anything.  One of the mistakes we make when  vacationing is filling it up with too many activities.  Packing too much in allows little time to relax and explore and can be stressful. The very thing we are trying to avoid!

Between waking up to an alarm and attending meetings to scheduling the gym and organising our lives we are constantly overloading ourselves with calendars, plans and activities.

Vacations are for breathing space, doing new things and living in the moment. Don’t fill your holiday up with so much stuff that you need a holiday after your holiday. 

Minimise traveling time

Vacation in one place so that you limit travelling to a “get there and get back” activity. Trying to fit too many destinations into one trip is tempting, particularly when it might take you a long time to get there but you will optimise the down time if you keep it simple.

Travelling to Italy and only Italy feels like a wasted opportunity to see more of Europe, however you will be more restful if you simply spend your time in one place.  Doing multiple things in one location is much more restful than moving to a different hotel every couple of nights.

Disconnect

Put the out of office on and set up a rule that directs all your inbound email to a folder.   When you return you can sift through it (or delete it!) knowing that anything that came up has probably been handled and only email from the past 48 hours will be directly relevant. 

Take the opportunity as well to lessen the amount of time you look at devices. Resist the urge to “check in” and spend the time doing something you might not normally do. There is a lot of research as to the health benefits of a digital detox and replacing it with reading a book, meditating, daydreaming or catching up on sleep by dosing by the pool. 

Block time on your return

The last thing you want when you get back is to walk straight into meetings that you will have had no time to prepare for, or context.  Give yourself a day to settle in, catch up and get back into the rhythm of work. Go to your calendar and do it right now. Your future self will thank you.

Whilst we know that in order to have a successful career, leaders need to work consistently, put systems in place to get things done and overcome obstacles, taking time away from work gives you the necessary perspective and distance from work to reflect on whether you are still doing work that excites and energises you. 

Leave should be seen as a valuable leadership and business opportunity not to be wasted. 


Donna McGeorge is a best-selling author and global authority on productivity.