Direct Marketing Article
Just Say NO to a Working Vacation: Eight Ways
to Make the Most of Your Time BEFORE You Hit the Beach
By Brian Moran and Michael Lennington
For far too many of today's professionals, pre-vacation excitement is mixed
with worry. "Will this finally be the year I get to really unwind?" they
wonder. Or will my vacation be held hostage by work once again? Brian Moran
provides some unique, pre-vacation planning advice to help you get it all
done before you take off.
Did you know 61 percent of employed Americans expect to have to do some work
while on vacation? According to a recent survey, it's true. This reality is
why so many of us approach vacation with mixed emotions. You're excited
about the quality time with your family and hopeful that this will be the
year you're able to truly unplug. But there's also a dull sense of dread as
you stress about how you'll ever get everything done beforehand. You'd love
to be part of the minority of people who just cut all ties with work for the
week, but you know that just isn't a reality. Or is it?
Brian P. Moran says it absolutely is, and not only that, it's essential.
"Successful people work with great focus and intention, and they play the
same way," says Moran, coauthor along with Michael Lennington, "When they're
working they're really working, and when they're vacationing they're really
vacationing. Rest and rejuvenation are the other side of the success coin.
"You must be purposeful about how you spend the time leading up to your
vacation," he adds. "The reason people end up working from their hotel room
isn't that they just have so much to do that they can never take a break.
It's that they aren't working with intention - and thus, they aren't
Being intentional about how you spend your time is the heart of the authors'
message. Our ability to do so impacts not only business profit sheets but
also the quality of our personal lives.
"Many of us spend our days reacting to problems rather than proactively
moving toward our goals, and that's how we end up feeling pulled in a
hundred different directions," says Moran. "And of course, it's also why we
find ourselves in so much trouble when vacation time rolls around."
Moran and Lennington's new book, The 12 Week Year, offers a new way to think
about time and how you use it. In a nutshell, plan your goals in 12 week
increments rather than 365 day years. When you do so, you're far more likely
to feel a healthy sense of urgency that gets you focused. Whether you're a
business leader or just an individual seeking a better work/life balance,
you'll get far more done in far less time - and you'll feel a lot less
stressed and a lot more in control.
Below are a few essential tips for what you can do right now to make sure
your vacation is truly a time for rest and relaxation.
Picture the perfect vacation. Hours on the beach with your kids - building
sand castles and riding waves. Romantic evenings out with your spouse. A
little uninterrupted reading time by the pool. These are the makings of a
great vacation, and they should serve as the vision that will drive you
through the hard work you'll have to get done before you hit the beach.
"Vision is the starting point of all high performance," says Moran. "It is
the first place where you engage your thinking about what is possible for
you. The more personally compelling your vision is, the more likely it is
that you will act upon it. It is your personal vision that creates an
emotional connection to the daily actions that need to take place in your
business. Once you understand the link between your vision of the perfect
vacation and your work, you can define exactly what you need to do to make
that great vacation happen."
Create a pre-vacation work plan. The authors' book emphasizes the benefits
of planning how you use your time via 12 week increments. Of course, as
summer creeps to an end most people probably don't have 12 weeks to work
with before their vacations. That's okay. The same principles you would use
to make a 12 week plan can be used to plan out the weeks and days left
before your vacation.
In The 12 Week Year, Moran and Lennington explain that working from a plan
has three distinct benefits. It reduces mistakes. It saves time. And it
provides focus. Planning, they write, allows you to think through in advance
the best approach to achieving your goals. You make your mistakes on paper,
which reduces miscues during implementation.
"Leading up to your vacation, it is a good idea to create a plan for each
work week you have left," notes Moran. "Your weekly plan encompasses your
strategies and priorities, your long-term and short-term tasks, and your
commitments in the context of time. For example, as part of the first week
of your pre-vacation plan you might set up a meeting with your boss,
colleagues, and/or clients to a) inform them of your upcoming vacation and
b) let them know what projects you're going to prioritize. Then in the last
week before vacation, block out time to inform your clients that you'll be
out of the office and whom they should contact while you're out. This helps
you focus on the elements of your plan that must happen each week in order
to make that perfect vacation vision possible."
Resign yourself to being uncomfortable NOW so you can be comfortable LATER.
Without a compelling reason to choose otherwise, most people will take
comfortable actions over uncomfortable ones. This is just human nature.
Problem is, the uncomfortable tasks you avoided prior to your vacation are
precisely the ones that will blow up or get out of control while you're
trying to enjoy some time on the beach.
"Important actions are often the uncomfortable ones," says Moran. "In our
experience, the number-one thing you will have to sacrifice to be great, to
achieve what you are capable of, and to execute your plans is your comfort.
So, if your goal is to have a carefree vacation, commit to sacrificing your
short-term comfort so that you can reach it. Take care of any tasks you've
been avoiding now so that they can't ruin your vacation and so that they
aren't on your mind when you're trying to have a good time."
Know what to do when you're not doing the things you know you need to do. Of
course, upping the work ante prior to going on vacation won't be easy. There
will be times when your level of execution is less than exceptional, and
it's very likely you won't be able to ignore the nagging, guilty feeling
that drop in execution brings on. But the good news is you can use that
feeling—what the authors call productive tension—to get yourself back on
"Productive tension is the uncomfortable feeling you get when you're not
doing the things you know you need to do," says Moran. "Our natural
inclination when confronted with discomfort is to resolve it. Sometimes this
leads people to simply bail on their plans. In your case, it might mean
resolving that you simply can't get everything done before your vacation
that you need to get done. So you throw in the towel and accept that you'll
have to make your vacation a working vacation.
"But productive tension can also be used as a catalyst for change. Instead
of responding to the discomfort by bailing, use the tension as an impetus to
move forward. When you eliminate bailing out as an option, then the
discomfort of productive tension will eventually compel you to take action
on your tactics. If turning back is not an option, then the only way to
resolve the discomfort is to move forward by executing your plan."
Make the most of performance time and down time. As you work toward your
vacation, it will be very important that you not respond to the demands of
the day reactively. In other words, you can't satisfy the various demands of
the day as they are presented, spending whatever time is needed to respond
without giving any thought to the relative value of the activity. You have
to use your time wisely.
You can keep control of your day through time-blocking. Basically, you block
your day into three kinds of blocks - strategic blocks, buffer blocks, and
breakout blocks. A strategic block is uninterrupted time that is scheduled
into each week. During this block, you accept no phone calls, no faxes, no
emails, no visitors, no anything. Buffer blocks are designed to deal with
all of the unplanned and low-value activities - like most email and
voicemail - that arise throughout a typical day, while breakout blocks
provide free time for you to use to rest and rejuvenate.
"Breakout blocks bring up an important point," notes Moran. "Even in the
frantic rush leading up to a vacation, you should allow yourself some down
time. Always working longer and harder kills your energy and enthusiasm.
Even before your vacation you need to schedule time to refresh and
reinvigorate, so you can continue to engage with more focus and energy."
Don't go it alone. It's likely that out of your network of colleagues and
friends you aren't the only one who is a) hoping to have a work-free
vacation and b) currently working frantically to make that goal possible.
And if that's the case, team up with them. The peer support you receive will
be invaluable in your pursuit of the perfect vacation.
"Your chances of success are seven times greater if you employ peer
support," says Moran. "In working with thousands of clients over the past
decade, we have found that when clients meet regularly with a group of
peers, they perform better; when they don't, performance suffers. It's that
"But there is a caveat," he adds. "Who you associate with matters. Stay away
from victims and excuse makers. Treat that mindset like a deadly, contagious
Isolate yourself from modern day distractions. In our modern world,
technology can be a major distraction. When you're focused on executing your
pre-vacation plan, don't let smartphones, social media, and the Internet
distract you from your higher-value activities.
"Some spontaneity is healthy, but if you are not purposeful with your time,
you'll get thrown off course," explains Moran. "Allow yourself to get
distracted by emails, social media, or the latest viral video while you're
working your pre-vacation plan, and before you know it, you'll be on your
vacation, stuck in your hotel room working on the project you didn't finish
while your family is playing on the beach. Learn to isolate yourself from
distractions when there is important work to be done."
Make a keystone commitment when you start your vacation. As Moran and
Lennington explain, many of their clients set a 12 week goal in a certain
area - say, getting fit. Then they build a 12 week plan around it with a
handful of tactics like "do 20 minutes of cardio three times a week," "train
with weights three times a week," and so forth. But the other option is to
again set a 12 week goal but, rather than building a tactical plan, identify
a keystone or core action and commit to completing it every day for the next
12 weeks. It's this second option that can help you make the most of your
"Your keystone commitment might be making breakfast for your family every
morning - something you don't get to do during a normal work week," suggests
Moran. "Or you might commit to taking a walk on the beach every day with
your spouse. Or to going on a one-on-one adventure with each of your kids
before the week is up.
"Setting a keystone commitment helps you avoid wasting your time on
meaningless activities - like sleeping too late every day," he adds.
"Remember, your pre-vacation plan was all about spending your time with
great intent and purpose so that you'd be able to have a great vacation. Why
should you stop being more purposeful with your time once you're actually on
vacation? Think about the difference these relatively simple commitments can
make to you and your family!"
"Your vacation time is precious," says Moran. "Don't ruin it by giving your
BlackBerry all the attention. You need that time to rest and rejuvenate so
that when you do go back to work you're ready and committed to making great
things happen. And you and your family deserve that uninterrupted time
together. Set your vision. Make a plan. Stay the course. When you're
relaxing on the beach, you'll be so glad you did."
About the Authors:
Brian P. Moran is founder and CEO of The Execution Company, an organization
committed to improving the performance and enhancing the quality of life for
leaders and entrepreneurs. He has served in management and executive
positions with UPS, PepsiCo, and Northern Automotive and consults with
dozens of world-class companies each year. As an entrepreneur, he has led
successful businesses and been instrumental in the growth and success of
many others. In addition to his books, Brian has been published in many of
the leading business journals and magazines. He is a sought-after speaker,
educating and inspiring thousands each year. Brian lives in Michigan with
his wife, Judy, and their two daughters.
Michael Lennington is vice president of The Execution Company. He is a
consultant, coach, and leadership trainer, and is an expert in implementing
lasting change in organizations. He works with clients in the U.S., Europe,
Asia, and the Middle East to help them implement corporate initiatives that
drive sales, service, and profitability. Michael holds a BS from Michigan
State University and an MBA from the Ross School of Business at the
University of Michigan. He lives with his wife, Kristin, and their children
in northern Michigan.
About their Book:
The 12 Week Year: Get
More Done in 12 Weeks Than Others Do in 12 Months