I recently came to a realization about the role of vacation and the difference between "re-charging" and getting "re-energized" for work.

One of our core values at Habanero is "Harmony":

We ensure work/life balances are in check. We believe harmony is a deeply personal and temporal balance point. We will continuously seek to allow people to live in balance and find passion in their lives.

I think everyone is a bit different in how they approach vacation, what works for them, and what Harmony is to them at any given time.

I have two different types of vacations:

Longer vacations (more than two weeks, out of the country)

  • I try to take one of these every year-and-a-half or so?.
  • I find that when I'm out of the country and far away somewhere (last October, it was Vietnam), everything is so different that I feel like home and work is very far away. It makes it very easy for me to completely disconnect.
  • This is the ultimate re-charge for me. Takes me out of the day-to-day and provides perspective. ????
  • The longer vacation also means there's more of hand-off that happens with my work before I leave. This certainly takes some effort ahead of time, but I can leave knowing confidently that work will continue on and my accountabilities are covered. It also means that when I get back from vacation, I don't have to dive right back in on day one. Things will carry on just fine and it leaves me a bit of space to re-focus and prioritize my time.

Shorter, local vacations (e.g. taking a few days off or a long weekend)

  • These are a lot more frequent for me, but I don't generally completely disconnect.
  • It's not a long enough time for me to put much effort into handing off work before I go and I tend to know exactly what I'm coming back to and what I'll need to get done on my first day back.
  • While certainly not the same as a longer vacation, these are still a good break and rest and a chance to re-charge my batteries.

What I realized recently though, is that although these vacations (both the longer ones and the shorter ones) are really effective at making me feel rested and re-charged, they don't necessarily get me re-energized and fired up for work. By their nature, they are about disconnecting from work and taking my mind somewhere else for a few days or a few weeks. So while I come back rested, that's not always entirely satisfying if I'm not also fired up.

So aside from vacation time, I know it's important to me to have things that also get me re-energized for work and actually re-connected.

Recently, in the few weeks leading up to the launch of a large SharePoint upgrade project I was involved in, I put in quite a bit of time and energy with the team and we had a marathon cutover weekend. I was certainly quite tired when it was done and knew I needed a bit of time to re-charge. I took a couple of long weekends and definitely rested and re-charged my batteries.

And while I was rested, I wasn't quite as energized as I am normally. What ended up really making a difference for me was a day out-of-the office at the Art of Leadership Conference that a few of us from Habanero had the opportunity to attend. There were some great speakers and I left feeling very inspired and energized.

I think there are a lot of different activities that could have this type of effect for me, whether it's a conference, learning something new, or just taking some time out of the "day-to-day" to work on longer term goals.

It was an important realization that for me vacation is primarily about disconnecting, resting, and re-charging. And while I typically spend time planning my vacations, I also need to plan for those activities that are going to get me reconnected and energized as well.

I'm not sure if any of you have similar experiences but I'd love to hear from you if you do.