I’ve just come back from a wonderful US road trip. Prior to this vacation, I had been working on a number of projects for my business and was struggling to make headway with a one of them. I therefore decided to take a proper vacation and not to do any work during my time off (shocking, I know). A couple of days before returning home, my thoughts obviously turned to the project and I suddenly had clarity around what I needed to do about it! How handy was that? I actually started laughing, as I often ‘prescribe’ vacations/time off to my clients as a way to help them get more clarity around their career issues (with a few provisos, see below) and know how effective this has been for many of them.
Obviously there is no guarantee that this approach is going to give you crystal clear answers, but there are a number of pro-active actions you can take before your time off to ensure you actually have something to ‘digest’ whilst away from your usual surroundings and habits.
Actions to take prior to your vacation:
1. Define your issue(s) as much as possible (so much time is wasted on wrongly defined issues (i.e. many times people think it’s their entire career path that’s a problem when the issue is actually just their manager or current company culture!))
2. Sketch out possible solutions/options (with pros and cons)
3. Make an inventory of people (friends, HR, contacts, career advisor etc) and resources (internet, books etc) to consult about your situation. Consult!
4. Do as much problem solving and thinking as you can ahead of your vacation, so you actually have something to digest whilst on holiday (people often go traveling hoping to ‘discover the answer’ which can be an issue if they haven’t even defined the issue!)
5. Decide to have a proper vacation (no work!) and try not to think about the issue whilst on vacation (at least until the last couple of days). But do look out for answers and ideas that might come to you (one of my ideas came in the shape of a slogan on a mug in a bookstore in Orlando!).
If You Only Do One Thing This Week: Book a vacation/time off, but remember to use the time beforehand wisely. Even if it’s just a couple of days away, (proper) time off can provide the kind of career clarity that the ‘daily grind’ doesn’t always allow for.