Obsessive Compulsive Productivity on Vacation

I was reading an article called "Blackberries don’t fit in bikinis" by Joe Robinson, the author of the (very good) book Work to Live: The Guide to Getting a Life.  I laughed out loud with his use of the term OCP: Obsessive Compulsive Productivity.  That’s really good.  The article talks about how working on vacation actually lowers productivity, a notion I’ve always supported.


Seems it’s time for a reminder on how to go on vacation:

Once you’re convinced that you’d better do yourself, your coworkers, and your family a favor by going on vacation, the next question is how to do it. That might seem like a silly question, but seriously, some people tell me they take a vacation just to accomplish all the things they can’t do while they’re at work. That’s not a vacation! You don’t get recharged, refreshed, and rebooted unless you actually get away from the office and into an environment that’s conducive to relaxation. Here are some tips:

Leave for two weeks. If you are only off for one week, your coworkers and staff will hold things for you “until you get back.” If you’re off for two weeks, it’s more likely others will do it themselves since it can’t wait that long. It takes three days just to unwind and another three days just to ramp back up before returning. So challenge yourself to get bored on your vacation. Be off long enough to ask, “What is today, anyway, Monday or Tuesday?”

Limit or eliminate your contact. The objective of a vacation is to get a psychological break from work to recharge your batteries. Don’t think you are oh-so-important that you have to contact the office every day when you’re gone. You’re not really as indispensable as you think you are. If a bus hit you tomorrow, the work would still get done. If you are that irreplaceable, I would point out you’re not developing your replacement properly, so you can be promoted. Get the right people to cover for you and forward your calls. Put an auto responder on your email saying you’ll be gone until (x) time and so-and-so is available to respond to immediate needs. If you must be in touch, limit your time to set hours such as 8:00 to 10:00 AM, and then enjoy the rest of the day. If you spend your vacation worrying about clients, prospects, and computers, you aren’t really taking a vacation.

Pretend you’re a tourist. Leisure time doesn’t have to be fancy, just away from the office. Even if you don’t have the funds to take an expensive vacation, you can relax in your own backyard. Go to museums, local attractions, and historical sites in your state. Make plans with friends or plan a camping trip. Take the time to remodel your bathroom, organize your photo albums, or complete your child’s baby book.

Enjoy yourself. Go ahead and eat those desserts you would typically avoid. Spend money on things you wouldn’t normally buy. Stay out and sleep in later than you normally would. Take the dinner boat cruise and the water-skiing lessons. Buy souvenirs and clothing and treasures of the area. Consider expenditures as investments in your emotional health.

Always have the next trip planned. Coming back from vacation is depressing. Allow for it with an extra day before you go back to work, because you might have the blues. When John and I return from our annual Hawaiian excursions, I’m always commenting, “This time last week I was on the beach.” To combat this, plan another trip. Put a date on the calendar, because if you don’t, it won’t happen. Buy plane tickets and schedule around it. Start planning and getting excited.

When my three-year-old Johnny is fussy, I tell him, “You’re grouchy. It’s time for you to take a nap!” Similarly, you might need to lovingly tell a colleague or a friend it’s time to take a break. If your significant other tells you to take a vacation, take it seriously and don’t shoot the messenger. Your friends and family may have a point, and your productivity and happiness depend on your listening to that advice.