Many of us are becoming accustomed to the three or four day weekend with Easter, May Day, Whitsun and Jubilee holidays falling so close together. These enforced Bank Holidays should result in a more rested and energised work force but it seems most of us are using these long weekends not so much to take a break but instead to press lightly on the brakes, keep working and catch up on the back log.
Hotels and holiday cottage owners are increasingly promoting ‘free wi-fi’ knowing that it’s a key attraction to potential guests. Keeping in touch and being able to instantly research local restaurants or even suppliers for a forthcoming work project are high on our list of vacation priorities. So much so that many holidaying executives report feeling anxiety when they find themselves ‘unplugged.’ And that anxiety only gets greater when they near the end of what should be a relaxing break, fearing the bulging inbox and a pile of unread papers.
But like the processor inside our smart phone our brains also need to re-boot from time to time. Simply slowing down and just checking emails a couple of times a day is no substitute for switching off completely.
And a change really can be as good as a rest, so even if you don’t have time to escape to the country cottage or the beach, don’t pass up the opportunity to turn your attention to something completely different. Managing Director of head-hunters Odgers Berndston, Kester Scrope reboots his brain as a pilot with the British Aerobatics Team: “Flying is incredible relaxation. It’s intense, it’s challenging and it gives a wonderful sense of freedom.” Fully applying our minds to something other than work breaks the cycle of rumination which is the primary trigger to stress.
When we take a real break we gain clarity and perspective, enabling us to spend extended time thinking without distractions. It could be argued that those in senior leadership roles whose primary responsibility is to set the vision and make decisions especially need time away from their responsibilities to think. Vision requires time and space to dream dreams, imagine and visualise what could be. Good decisions can’t always be made on instinct – we need ‘thinking time’ to consider the facts, weigh up the pros and cons. For those big decisions a few days off can provide the time and thinking space needed to reach the right conclusions.
So for the next Bank Holiday don’t just slow down. Unplug, switch off and reset your most precious gadget, your mind.