Tag Archives: vacation

The Art of Vacation 2 (Sequel to “The Art of Vacation” posted 3/25/2014)

“Aaahhhhh!” That utterance, offered by yours truly this morning, is the essence of having achieved a clean and refreshing break from routine through the Art of Vacation. And what a vacation it was!

A Celebration of True Love

Our family vacation commenced with a two-day drive to beautiful Ouray, Colorado where we would join with family from all over the country in celebrating the nuptials of my niece, Jenny.

Panoramic taken from outside our room at the Box Canyon Lodge and Hot Springs

Panoramic taken from outside our room at the Box Canyon Lodge and Hot Springs

A Celebration of True Friendship

Upon returning from Colorado June 30, we prepared for the arrival of our friends from Roanoke, Virginia the next day. When they arrived at DFW Airport we hit the ground running, spending lots of time catching up on each other’s families while we played tourist in my home town.

Dealey Plaza, the site of John F. Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas, was our first tourist stop. Offering an audio tour through the events of that fateful day, the museum on the sixth floor of the old Texas Book Depository is extremely well done. If you live in the Metroplex or find yourself visiting here you must put this on your bucket list.

We lightened the mood on July 3 by visiting downtown Grapevine, Texas. This historical area features several Texas wineries along with cool shops offering everything from fine chocolates to antiques to Texas apparel & souvenirs. Grapevine also offers several fine restaurants to suit any taste. We were apparently so caught up in the excitement that none of us took any pictures!

Independence Day, July 4, found us in the historical Fort Worth Stockyards, one of my favorite places to visit. We took in the sights and sounds of this beautiful historical district and celebrated our freedom at the Stockyards Rodeo – you can’t get much more Americana than that!

Our friends departed for home Saturday afternoon, and we spent the remainder of the day relaxing at home as we recharged the proverbial batteries.

The Art of Vacation

As I prepared to leave the office for vacation I put the wheels in motion by letting my coworkers know that they will hear from me when I return to the office on Monday, July 7. I updated my voice mail greeting to state clearly that I am not checking it, and my email auto-reply clearly states the same. And I kept my word. Today I returned to work reenergized, refreshed, and ready.

Have you lost the Art of Vacation? If so, find it. Reclaim it. Live it. I promise you won’t regret it.

The Art of Vacation

When is the last time you took a vacation? I’m not necessarily talking about an expensive trip to an exotic destination; I’m talking about a simple break from your daily routine. Merriam-Webster defines vacation as, “a period of time that a person spends away from home, school, or business usually in order to relax or travel” (Merriam-webster.com). Speaking strictly from personal experience, we all need to retreat from routine once in awhile to reenergize ourselves. Our minds need a break and our bodies need rest.

We work in an age of immediacy. People send email and expect a (sometimes unreasonably) quick reply. Instant messaging, a means of communication even more immediate than email, is becoming more popular at work. I’ve heard of 2-hour voice mail standards in some work places. Pile these communications on top of increasing workloads and multiple projects and we have created for ourselves a stressful work environment that leaves us exhausted at the end of the day. Multiply that day by weeks and then by months and, at some point, our minds and our bodies say, “Enough already!”

Sadly, along with the convenience and immediacy of modern forms of communications comes what I call The Fear of Disconnecting. Many of us cannot or will not disconnect from work, even when supposedly on vacation, because we suffer from The Fear. Seriously? Are any of us really so important that our workplace would collapse if we disappeared for a week or two? Unfortunately, I know many colleagues who, by their actions, seem to take that notion to heart. I’m asking you to consider otherwise.

After years of vacationing with my laptop and smart phone as travel companions, I wondered why I returned from vacation pretty much as stressed as when I departed. Then it hit me: I never really disconnected. I checked email once or twice each day and replied to most messages. I checked voice mail one or more times daily and returned or forwarded important calls. I found that I was spending an hour or more of each vacation day – working! No wonder I couldn’t relax! No wonder I was stressed! “But this is what’s expected; this is what is necessary these days,” I thought.

Two years ago, I decided to conduct a personal experiment by adopting my own personal vacation policy centered on a complete disconnection from my work routine. While the benefits of such a policy are numerous, here are three benefits that should resonate with most of us:

  1. When I disconnect completely I truly enjoy the vacation experience. Whether visiting an exotic location or doing yard work at the lake (yes, that is R&R for me) the experience receives my full attention. My mind is focused on something other than routine. That’s the point.
  2. When I disconnect completely I am a better travel companion for my family. They get all of me for those few days.
  3. When I disconnect completely I return to work from vacation feeling refreshed and rejuvenated – a win for my coworkers and a win for me.

That all sounds great, but how do we pull this off in today’s world of immediate communication? How do we disconnect while respecting the expectation that we be immediately available? Friends, it’s all in the planning. Two to three weeks before my scheduled vacation, I let my boss, my coworkers, and my direct reports know of my plans. I give them the dates of my vacation and remind them that I will not check email or voice mail while I’m away. This gives them ample time to request things from me before I leave, thus mitigating the possibility of somebody needing something while I’m away and feeling frustrated because I’m not there to deliver it. I give similar notification to important business partners outside my company – in my case those include our insurance broker, our claims representatives, and our outside law firms. I give my first notice three weeks ahead of time if possible, and I repeat the notice at least once each week leading up to my scheduled vacation.

Before leaving the office, I update my voice mail greeting and my email auto-reply to clearly state that I am unavailable while offering a means of reaching a qualified coworker. If you email me today, for example, this is the message you will receive: “I am out of the office on vacation. I will not be checking email while I’m away. I will return to the office on Friday, March 28 and I will receive and reply to your email after my return. Should you require assistance before then, please contact…” Similarly, if you call my work number today, you will receive this voice mail greeting: “This is Jeff Strege with CEC Entertainment. I am on vacation. You may press zero now to be transferred to another member of the risk management team. If you’d prefer to leave a message you may do so at the tone, but I will not receive your message until I return to the office on Friday, March 28.” My goal is to clearly state that I will not receive the message until my return while giving the sender or caller a means by which they can reach somebody else for assistance.

I offer this side comment on out of office messaging: If you say you’re out, you’re out. If you set your out of office message to say you’re out, but then reply to emails or return phone calls your Out of Office Credibility is shot. When you try to disconnect for vacation, people who know you well may expect a reply anyway. Set the message and let it be.

This system has worked beautifully for me. Fortunately, I work with people who understand the needs and benefits of a real vacation – and I bet most of those reading this do as well. I dare you to try it. If it’s a scary proposition for you, take a Friday off and allow yourself to disconnect completely for the 3-day weekend. If you haven’t tried it before, you may be surprised at how refreshed you feel when you return to work on Monday.

P.S. I am not a psychologist or a human behavior expert, nor is this piece intended to persuade anybody to behave in a manner not consistent with company policy or procedure. This piece is based solely on my personal experience. Good luck!

Our Lovely Day of Rest – Naples, FL

Yesterday I set out to journal the amazing day of rest my wife and I enjoyed on Saturday, and instead the words flowed concerning the acquisition of my employer and the new “normal” my coworkers and I face. Well, given the turmoil the transition period put on my work plans, I was so looking forward to resting for a day, and finally got what I wanted last Saturday at the Ritz Carleton Beach Resort in Naples, Florida.

First, I’ll say that the Ritz has mastered serving their guests. Their response to every request is a cheerful “we can do that,” or “my pleasure!” They greet you upon each arrival and bid you well on each departure. The grounds are immaculate and the setting pristine. We were fortunate that the cost of our accommodations were covered, for the Ritz is very pricey. But, as a wise person once said, “you get what you pay for.”

As for our day of rest, I’ll allow a few photos to speak for me.

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