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The Absolute WORST Day to Take a Vacation (It’s Not When You Think!)

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The Absolute WORST Day to Take a Vacation (It’s Not When You Think!)

    I need a vacation.

    For the last couple of months, I’ve been working like crazy getting my book ready for publication, and laying all the groundwork to promote it. I coordinated with my 30 contributing authors to get their chapters polished and ready, I got the books designed, printed, and then shipped out to reviewers, and I’ve written dozens of guest posts to help spread the word.

    Not to mention producing two video trailers, putting together a sweet launch offer, coordinating with reviewers… and doing everything I have to do as part of day-to-day client work.

    All to say that I’m tired, and I could use a break.

    And the book is done, launched last week – isn’t it time for me to be able to kick back and enjoy the fruits of my labor?

    When You’re Supposed to Take a Vacation

      The prevailing wisdom states that our lives should follow a pattern that looks more or less like the one depicted to the right;

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      1. We choose a new goal – something that is important to us, that we’re willing to put time and energy into achieving.
      2. We work towards that goal. A lot. There are setbacks along the way, but we keep on trucking.
      3. We evaluate our success. As long as we haven’t achieved that goal, we buckle down and get back to work.
      4. Finally, we achieve the goal. Success! Victory! Now it’s time to reward ourselves with a vacation.

      And of course, when we get back from vacation, it’s time to set a new goal, and start the whole cycle over again.

      This is the prevailing wisdom, and according to the prevailing wisdom, I should be packing my bags right about now; after all, the book is published, the guest posts are written, the marketing is all done – in other words, the work has been completed, and the goal has been achieved.

      Except that the prevailing wisdom is wrong, wrong, wrong. To understand why it’s wrong, we have to understand where it came from…

      Vacations in a Corporate Setting

      The prevailing wisdom comes from the corporate reality, and in that setting, the prevailing wisdom makes sense.

      The job of managers in a corporate environment is to make sure that other people do theirs. To do that effectively, they have to do two things (in addition to giving clear instructions and allocating the actual work, of course):

      1. Manage employees’ motivation. If employees aren’t motivated to get the job done, then they probably won’t. It’s the manager’s job to keep employees motivated to keep on working.
      2. Manage employees’ energy level. If employees are tired or burned out, then they won’t get much work done, either. It’s the manager’s job to manage workloads, and make sure that doesn’t happen.

      Putting a vacation at the end of a project helps to achieve both of these objectives; it rewards employees for their hard work, which helps to keep them motivated, and it gives them an opportunity to recharge, so that they’re ready for more hard work when they get back.

      But that logic doesn’t work if you’re running your own business, and in charge of your own income.

      For one, you shouldn’t need a vacation to reward you for your hard work; the results of your hard work should be all the reward that you need. That’s the beauty of doing your own thing – at least part of the reason why you do it is that you love it, and find the work itself to be motivating.

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      (This intrinsic motivation is also why I believe that entrepreneurs are capable of doing so much more actual work than corporate employees; if you want to learn more about that, check out Dan Pink’s RSA Animate video about his book Drive.)

      But even more importantly, because it doesn’t factor in two very important things: momentum, and the landscape of opportunity…

      Momentum is a Real Thing

      Momentum is a funny thing. You can’t touch it, or see it, but you can definitely feel it, and it can do wonderful things for your business. It is also the first big reason why you shouldn’t take a vacation after a big win.

      Here are three basic rules for understanding momentum:

      1. Wins create momentum.
      2. Action after a win multiplies momentum.
      3. Inaction dissipates momentum.

      Simple enough, and pretty intuitive, right?

      The upshot of these rules, though, is that after your big win, you should be doing everything that you can to ride and multiply the momentum, rather than taking a break and letting it dissipate.

      There’s an even better reason to work after a big win, though: wins change everything.

      The Changing Landscape of Opportunity

      Goals, by definition, are about changing something – if everything stayed exactly the same, then you wouldn’t have to work to achieve it. We have a lot of different kind of goals, but they all boil down to making us healthier, or happier, or better off. In other words, they’re about making our worlds a little bit better.

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      Better is good, but better is also different. It’s hard to change just one thing and leave everything else the same. Changing one thing changes everything. And when everything changes, new opportunities open up.

      Now let me ask you, as an entrepreneur – when new opportunities are opening up, is it time to take a vacation, or is it time to seize those opportunities? Any entrepreneur worth his salt would say that it’s the latter – that’s just a part of the mindset that allows entrepreneurs to do what they do…

      The Red Honda Effect and the Psychology of Success

      You know how when you start thinking about something, suddenly you start seeing it everywhere, as though you were “magnetically drawing it into your life”?

      Some people call it “the secret” or the “law of attraction”, but I call it the “red Honda effect”. Thinking about something doesn’t magically draw it towards you, but it does focus your attention, so that you start noticing it around you (just like when you’re thinking about buying a red Honda, you start seeing them everywhere).

      The same effect is at play when it comes to looking for opportunity. Just developing the mindset that opportunity is there, just waiting for you to find and seize it, will expand your frame of reference and allow you to see more possibilities.

      (Want to read more about this? Check out Mindset by Carol Dweck, or Positivity by Barbara Fredrickson.)

      Long story short? When things are going well, there’s always the opportunity to make them even better! :D Now, just to be clear, I’m not advocating the stereotype of the workaholic entrepreneur who never takes a break or vacation.

      What Vacations Are For, and When They’re Okay

      Entrepreneurs don’t need vacations to stay motivated, but we do need to manage our energy level, and vacations are a big part of that; it’s important for us to take breaks, breath some fresh air, and get some perspective on what we’re doing. In other words, even though we don’t need vacations as rewards, they’re great for resting and recharging – just so long as we don’t take one at a time that will take away our momentum, or kill an opportunity.

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      For an entrepreneur (or anyone who is in charge of their own income), vacations don’t come when projects are complete. On the contrary – they should come when the projects are still in progress, but you’re tired, and need to recharge to carry the ball the rest of the way:

        Celebrate, then Get Back to Work!

        Make sure not to skip the celebration box, because it’s important!

        As the diagram indicates, our projects aren’t as nice and neat as the projects of a corporate employee, with a start, middle, end, and vacation before the next one. Our projects are messy, and blend into each other in a continuum of work and the pursuit of opportunity.

        That’s great, and we wouldn’t have it any other way, but it’s also important to pause and celebrate the wins.

        After the launch, my wife and I went out to a nice restaurant, and raised our glasses to toast my book finally being done and launched to the world.

        But then the next day, I got back to work… ;)

        What about you? Do you believe in a vacation after a big win, or do you agree that this is the time to look for new opportunities, and build on your momentum?

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        (Photo credit: Beach chair and umbrella from Shutterstock

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        Last Updated on October 7, 2021

        Are You Addicted to Productivity?

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        Are You Addicted to Productivity?

        “It’s great to be productive. It really is. But sometimes, we chase productivity so much that it makes us, well, unproductive. It’s easy to read a lot about how to be more productive, but don’t forget that you have to make that time up.”

        Matt Cutts wrote that back in 2013,[1]

        “Today, search for ‘productivity’ and Google will come back with about 663,000,000 results. If you decide to go down this rabbit hole, you’ll be bombarded by a seemingly endless amount of content. I’m talking about books, blogs, videos, apps, podcasts, scientific studies, and subreddits all dedicated to productivity.”

        Like so many other people, I’ve also fallen into this trap. For years I’ve been on the lookout for trends and hacks that will help me work faster and more efficiently — and also trends that help me help others to be faster. I’ve experimented with various strategies and tools . And, while some of these strategies and solutions have been extremely useful — without parsing out what you need quickly — it’s counterproductive.

        Sometimes you end up spending more time focusing on how to be productive instead of actually being productive.

        “The most productive people I know don’t read these books, they don’t watch these videos, they don’t try a new app every month,” James Bedell wrote in a Medium post.[2] “They are far too busy getting things done to read about Getting Things Done.”

        This is my mantra:

        I proudly say, “I am addicted to productivity — I want to be addicted to productivity — productivity is my life and my mission — and I also want to find the best way to lead others through productivity to their best selves.

        But most of the time productivity means putting your head down and working until the job’s done.” –John Rampton

        Addiction to Productivity is Real

        Dr. Sandra Chapman, director of the University of Texas at Dallas Center for BrainHealth points out that the brain can get addicted to productivity just as it can to more common sources of addiction, such as drugs, gambling, eating, and shopping.

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        “A person might crave the recognition their work gives them or the salary increases they get,” Chapman told the BBC.[3] “The problem is that just like all addictions, over time, a person needs more and more to be satisfied, and then it starts to work against you. Withdrawal symptoms include increased anxiety, depression, and fear.”

        Despite the harmful consequences, addiction is considered by some experts as a brain disease that affects the brain’s reward system and ends in compulsive behavior. Regardless, society tends to reward productivity — or at least to treat it positively. As a result, this makes the problem even worse.

        “It’s seen like a good thing: the more you work, the better,” adds Chapman. “Many people don’t realize the harm it causes until a divorce occurs and a family is broken apart, or the toll it takes on mental health.”

        Because of the occasional negative issues with productivity, it’s no surprise that it is considered a “mixed-blessing addiction.”

        “A workaholic might be earning a lot of money, just as an exercise addict is very fit,” explains Dr. Mark Griffiths, distinguished professor of behavioral addiction at Nottingham Trent University. “But the thing about any addiction is that in the long run, the detrimental effects outweigh any short-term benefits.”

        “There may be an initial period where the individual who is developing a work addiction is more productive than someone who isn’t addicted to work, but it will get to a point when they are no longer productive, and their health and relationships are affected,” Griffiths writes in Psychology Today.[4] “It could be after one year or more, but if the individual doesn’t do anything about it, they could end up having serious health consequences.”

        “For instance, I speculated that the consequences of work addiction may be reclassified as something else: If someone ends up dying of a work-related heart attack, it isn’t necessarily seen as having anything to do with an addiction per se – it might be attributed to something like burnout,” he adds.

        There Are Three “Distinct Extreme Productivity Types

        Cyril Peupion, a Sydney-based productivity expert, has observed extreme productivity among clients at both large and medium-sized companies. “Most people who come to me are high performers and very successful. But often, the word they use to describe their work style is ‘unsustainable,’ and they need help getting it back on track.”

        By changing their work habits, Peupion assists teams and individuals improve their performance and ensure that their efforts are aligned with the overarching strategy of the business, rather than focusing on work as a means to an end. He has distinguished three types of extreme productivity in his classification: efficiency obsessive, selfishly productive, and quantity-obsessed.

        Efficiency obsessive. “Their desks are super tidy and their pens are probably color-coded. They are the master of ‘inbox zero.’ But they have lost sight of the big picture, and don’t know the difference between efficiency and effectiveness.”

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        Selfishly productive. “They are so focused on their own world that if they are asked to do something outside of it, they aren’t interested. They do have the big picture in mind, but the picture is too much about them.”

        Quantity-obsessed. “They think; ‘The more emails I respond to, the more meetings I attend, the more tasks I do, the higher my performance.’ As a result, they face a real risk of burnout.”

        Peupion believes that “quantity obsessed” individuals are the most common type “because there is a pervasive belief that ‘more’ means ‘better’ at work.”

        The Warning Signs of Productivity Addiction

        Here are a few questions you should ask yourself if you think you may be succumbing to productivity addiction. After all, most of us aren’t aware of this until it’s too late.

        • Can you tell when you’re “wasting” time? If so, have you ever felt guilty about it?
        • Does technology play a big part in optimizing your time management?
        • Do you talk about how busy you are most of the time? In your opinion, is hustling better than doing less?
        • What is your relationship with your email inbox? Are you constantly checking it or experience phantom notifications?
        • When you only check one item off your list, do you feel guilty?
        • Does stress from work interfere with your sleep?
        • Have you been putting things off, like a vacation or side project, because you’re “too swamped?

        The first step toward turning around your productivity obsession is to recognize it. If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, then it’s time to make a plan to overcome your addiction to productivity.

        Overcoming Your Productivity Addiction

        Thankfully, there are ways to curb your productivity addiction. And, here are 9 such ways to achieve that goal.

        1. Set Limits

        Just because you’re hooked on productivity doesn’t mean you have to completely abstain from it. Instead, you need to establish boundaries.

        For example, there are a lot of amazing productivity podcasts out there. But, that doesn’t mean you have to listen to them all in the course of a day. Instead, you could listen to one or two podcasts, like The Productivity Podcast or Before Breakfast, during your commute. And, that would be your only time of the day to get your productivity fix.

        2. Create a Not-to-Do List

        Essentially, the idea of a not-to-do list is to eliminate the need to practice self-discipline. Getting rid of low-value tasks and bad habits will allow you to focus on what you really want to do as opposed to weighing the pros and cons or declining time requests. More importantly, this prevents you from feeling guilty about not crossing everything off an unrealistic to-do list.

        3. Be Vulnerable

        By this, I mean admitting where you could improve. For example, if you’re new to remote work and are struggling with thi s, you would only focus on topics in this area. Suggestions would be how to create a workspace at home, not getting distracted when the kids aren’t in school, or improving remote communication and collaboration with others.

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        4. Understand Why You Procrastinate

        Often, we procrastinate to minimize negative emotions like boredom or stress. Other times it could be because it’s a learned trait, underestimating how long it takes you to complete something or having a bias towards a task.

        Regardless of the exact reason, we end up doing busy work, scrolling social media, or just watching one more episode of our favorite TV series. And, even though we know that it’s not for the best, we do things that make us feel better than the work we should do to restore our mood.[5]

        There are a lot of ways to overcome procrastination. But, the first step is to be aware of it so that you can take action. For example, if you’re dreading a difficult task, don’t just watch Netflix. Instead, procrastinate more efficiently,y like returning a phone call or working on a client pitch.

        5. Don’t Be a Copycat

        Let’s keep this short and sweet. When you find a productivity app or technique that works for you, stick with it.

        That’s not to say that you can’t make adjustments along the way or try new tools or hacks. However, the main takeaway should be that just because someone swears by the Pomodoro Technique doesn’t mean it’s a good fit for you.

        6. Say Yes to Less

        Across the board, your philosophy should be less is more.

        That means only download the apps you actually use and want to keep (after you try them out) and uninstall the ones you don’t use. For example, are you currently reading a book on productivity? Don’t buy your next book until you’ve finished the one you’re currently reading (or permit yourself to toss a book that isn’t doing you any good). — and if you really want to finish a book more quickly, listen to the book on your way to work and back.

        Already have plans this weekend? Don’t commit to a birthday party. And, if you’re day is booked, decline that last-minute meeting request.

        7. Stop Focusing on What’s Next

        “In the age when purchasing a thing from overseas is just one click and talking to another person is one swipe right, acquiring new objects or experiences can be addictive like anything else,” writes Patrick Banks for Lifehack .

        “That doesn’t need to be you,” he adds. “You can stop your addition to ‘the next thing’ starting today.” After all, “there will always be this next thing if you don’t make a conscious decision to get your life back together and be the one in charge.”

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        • Think about your current lifestyle and the person you’re at this stage to help you identify what you aren’t satisfied with.
        • By setting clear goals for yourself in the future, you will be able to overcome your addiction.
        • Establish realistic goals.
        • To combat addiction, you must be aware of what is going on around you, as well as inside your head, at any given time.
        • Don’t spend time with people who have unhealthy behaviors.
        • Hold yourself accountable.
        • Keep a journal and write out what you want to overcome.
        • Appreciate no longer being addicted to what’s next.

        8. Simplify

        Each day, pick one priority task. That’s it. As long as you concentrate on one task at a time, you will be less likely to get distracted or overwhelmed by an endless list of tasks. A simple mantra to live by is: work smarter, not harder.

        The same is also accurate with productivity hacks and tools. Bullet journaling is a great example. Unfortunately, for many, a bullet journal is way more time-consuming and overwhelming than a traditional planner.

        9. Learn How to Relax

        “Sure, we need to produce sometimes, especially if we have to pay the bills, but, banning obsession with productivity is unhealthy,” writes Leo Babauta. “When you can’t get yourself to be productive, relax.” Don’t worry about being hyper-efficient. And, don’t beat yourself up about having fun.

        “But what if you can’t motivate yourself … ever?” he asks. “Sure, that can be a problem. But if you relax and enjoy yourself, you’ll be happier.”

        “And if you work when you get excited, on things you’re excited about, and create amazing things, that’s motivation,” Leo states. “Not forcing yourself to work when you don’t want to, on things you don’t want to work on — motivation is doing things you love when you get excited.”

        But, how exactly can you relax? Here are some tips from Leo;

        • Spend 5 minutes walking outside and breathe in the fresh air.
        • Give yourself more time to accomplish things. Less rushing means less stress.
        • If you can, get outside after work to enjoy nature.
        • Play like a child. Even better? Play with your kids. And, have fun at work — maybe give gamification a try .
        • Take the day off, rest, and do something non-work-related.
        • Allow yourself an hour of time off. Try not to be productive during that time. Just relax.
        • You should work with someone who is exciting. Make your project exciting.
        • Don’t work in the evenings. Seriously.
        • Visit a massage therapist.
        • Just breathe.

        “Step by step, learn to relax,” he suggests. “Learn that productivity isn’t everything.” For that statement, sorry Leo, I say productivity isn’t everything — it’s the only thing.” However, if you can’t cut loose, relax, do fun things, and do the living part of your life — you’ll crack in a big way — you really will.

        It’s great to create and push forward — just remember it doesn’t mean that every minute must be spent working or obsessing over productivity issues. Instead, invest your time in meaningful, high-impact work, get into it, focus, put in big time and then relax.

        Are You Addicted to Productivity? was originally published on Calendar by John Rampton.

        Featured photo credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com via unsplash.com

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