How to Take a Real Vacation and Avoid Burnout

I’ve been struck lately at how many people have told me they need a vacation – a real vacation – where they completely unplug from the day-to-day responsibilities of work. Given the current pandemic, economic recession, political tensions and heightened awareness of racial inequities, even the most resilient among us may be nearing burn-out.

Whether you’re on the edge of burn-out or over the edge, here are a few tips.

  1. Give yourself permission – maybe even a mandate – to take time off. If you’re fortunate enough to have work, yes, be thankful. But, also, be thankful for the opportunity to take care of yourself. Carve out the time you need.
  2. Be purposeful about not just taking a break but filling your tank. It may not be enough to unplug from what is draining you. Decide how to plug into what will energize you and structure your vacation accordingly.
  3. Get creative. If you were you planning to take a week off, why not 10 days or 2 weeks? Can’t take a whole week off? Consider a workcation, where you go away and work remotely but enjoy the sites and activities after work. Or take a half-day off. Or a long weekend. Or several. Don’t want to travel? Take a staycation, where you stay home but do fun and relaxing things locally instead of your normal home routine.
  4. Get outside and enjoy some sunshine. Don’t underestimate the rejuvenating power of nature. Enjoy coffee or lunch on the front porch. Take a walk or bike ride. Exercise outside. Sit near a window. One leader I know recently took his family on a cross-country trip to three national parks. The beauty of nature, the physical activity and the opportunity to be together as a family outside was replenishing and invigorating for them all.
  5. Gain perspective. Approach your vacation not as an escape but as a strategic time out. I was in a discussion last week with several senior business leaders, many of whom were intentionally making the most of this season rather than just getting through it. When asked, “what are you learning during this time of quarantining and working from home?” the most common answer was, “I am seeing the benefit of slowing down.” The circumstances had initially forced them to slow down. But now they were intentionally using their ‘extra time’ not only to rethink their business strategies but also to refocus their life purposes and energy management strategies. Several were resisting the pressure to go back to a pace with no margin.
  6. Be intentional about re-entry. Take some time while you’re unplugged to decide what your daily and weekly replenishing rhythms will look like after you return from vacation. E.g., one senior leader I know has used the extra time he formerly spent commuting to participate in additional meetings and to work more. Another person decided to protect that time to exercise, read and connect with friends and family. Guess which one told me he is nearing burn-out?

Are you on the edge of burn-out or feeling extra emotional weight this season? Maybe it’s time to take a real vacation.

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Joe Baker is a Partner with PeopleResults. As a leadership consultant and executive coach, he helps executives and their teams improve engagement, effectiveness, resiliency and impact. You can reach him at jbaker@people-results.com or on Twitter @JoeBakerJr.

Joe Baker