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8 Ways To Live and Work Like You’re On Vacation

8 Ways To Live and Work Like You’re On Vacation

If you’re like most people, vacationing is a welcome reprieve from usual daily stresses. On vacation you may laugh more, sleep better, feel more at ease, but why should we limit that to 10 days out of the year? Nothing really changes on vacation except a shift in perspective and that shift is something we can manifest at home on a regular basis whenever we want. Here are eight easy steps to live and work like you’re on vacation:

1. Change your commute.

The best part of vacationing is seeing new cities, landscapes, and people. Taking in new information about our environment forces us to become more aware. We stop hanging our heads in our phones and look up to see what’s around the corner. Changing up your perspective can be as easy as changing your commute to work. If you drive, take public transit. If you take the subway, consider riding your bike. It could be as easy as taking the long way around or stopping by a coffee shop that is a little out of the way. A change in your commute doesn’t have to be huge, but it will have a huge payoff.

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2. Answer your email twice a day.

Many people stay connected to their email on vacation, but the ones who get the most rest are the ones who give it a rest. The batching technique was made famous by life hacker extraordinaire Tim Ferriss. It’s simple: set up an auto-response that lets people know when you’ll be checking your email throughout the day, preferably two times a day in the late morning (after morning emails have come in) and early evening (at the end of your work day), and a phone number where they can reach you if it’s an emergency. Knowing that they won’t hear from you until those specific times allows you to get more meaningful work done and to feel less pressure to respond to everything immediately.

3. Go to new restaurants.

We all have our tried and true spots. They know our name, what we like to order, that we want our dressing on the side. But on vacation our palate is constantly changing. Eating out isn’t just about avoiding doing the dishes later on, it’s about getting to know a new cuisine and atmosphere. It makes eating more conscious and consciously chowing down makes every bite more satisfying.

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4. Assume nothing.

Remember when you were on vacation in a brand new culture and you weren’t sure what was expected of you in restaurants, or on the road, or even just walking down the street? Assuming nothing meant you were open to new experiences. You saw the world through innocent eyes and that’s a good thing. Taking away the assumption that you know all you need to know leaves you open to being a student. Practice this in your relationships. Assume you don’t know what your boss or spouse is going to say next. Consider every moment a surprise and see just how much more interesting your daily interactions can be.

5. When your to-do list is finished, stop.

A novel idea, right? We get so engrossed by productivity that turning off our progress-oriented brains at the end of the day can be difficult. So much so that we often make up meaningless tasks just so we can keep working. When you prepare for vacation, you run down your list of things to take care of and then you leave. You turn off your phone, get on the plane, and just stop working. You can create the same kind of daily rest by simply stopping once your list is complete. Sometimes, the lists of things to do really will be endless, but knowing that you can only get so much done in one day is your permission to stop. Clock out every day.

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6. Filter the same old problems through your vacation lens.

You know that as soon as you come back from vacation, the same old issues at work or home will reappear. Just because the problems are there doesn’t mean that you have to react in the same way. Consider the most valuable thing you learned on vacation – maybe it was learning to slow down, maybe it was recognizing that you could step away from your team and they were just fine on their own, maybe it was that you feel the best early in the morning. Whatever it was, use that lens to look at your current everyday life. If you are feeling run down and uninspired, maybe you need to get your most important work done first thing in the morning because that’s when you had the most energy on vacation. Get into your vacation mode to solve problems and the answers are usually obvious.

7. Use your commute to consume.

Consume podcasts, audio books, music, radio. How many times do you see this question on Facebook right before someone goes on vacation: “Any good book recommendations for the beach?” Why should we save the consumption of books and music for the times we’re out of town? When you find yourself allowing more down time in your life, you’ll have the space to fill it with inspiration. But even if your schedule is packed, you can always use your commute to get inspired. Instead of planning for or worrying about the day, take a book or a playlist to create the mood you want. Choose to make your commute as pleasurable as possible.

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8. Plan free time.

You didn’t just show up at your vacation destination, it took planning. You carved out time and set aside some money, you researched what there was to do and got your butt there. There is no difference between vacation free time and everyday free time except that we plan the former a lot more easily. Schedule in your plans to see a concert or meet a friend for coffee or simply get in another half hour of reading. If you’re not sure what you want to do each week, at the very least block off time for just you. An hour of free time a day keeps the exhaustion away. Don’t assume it will happen, make it happen.

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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