Tag Archive for: vacation

Challenge yourself to set down your smartphone

I just returned from a lovely summer vacation at a nice beachside resort. Being the proud workaholic that I am, (I love what I do!) I use these vacations to unplug from work. I, personally, need this disconnection physically and spiritually. Additionally, unplugging greatly contributes to my business success. These times off provide invaluable opportunities to think, reflect, take stock of progress, and to create and plan for the future.

As my wife and I were sitting on the beach and by the poolside, the number of people constantly glued to their smart devices struck me; people of all ages, from all walks of life – fathers, mothers, their kids. In fact, with many guests, it seemed as if they were on Facebook, email or Instagram nonstop.

It was the same way at the restaurants during breakfast, lunch and dinner – people sitting around a table, each in their own world, glued to their personal smart device, consumed by what was on their screen rather than who was in their company.

So, when do these people actually enjoy their vacation?

I am not naïve, and I don’t mean to be narrow-minded or judgmental. I understand the modern smart digital age we live in. I take part in it every day. I use my smartphone too, when not on vacation. In addition, I have three kids who are, or were, teenagers. So, I fully get it.

However, I try very hard to manage and control my smart-device usage and not allow it to manage and control my life. It seems that so may people have reached an unhealthy point, and my vacation people-watching experience definitely confirmed that.

Some people may push back and say, “Being on my smart device doesn’t take away from my vacation, it enhances it,” or “It doesn’t distract me. It helps me relax.”

I don’t buy it!

When people are consumed by their smart devices, they are not meaningfully present in the moment with the people and activities around them. It’s as simple as that – when they are on their smartphones 60-90% of the time, they are fully present with their immediate environment only 40-10% of the time.

Don’t take this the wrong way, I try and take the fullest advantage of these innovations and I value the transformation technology, smart devices and the digital and social media environment is bringing to many areas of my life.

At the same time, I also see the negative affects of technology – people being so occupied by their devises that it compromises their ability to relate, communicate and drive intimacy.

Where are you on this spectrum?

Photo by: Johan Larsson

Are you taking enough time off?

I took a vacation last week. It was March break in Toronto. Our youngest daughter travelled to our family overseas for the break so my wife and I took advantage of our ‘empty nesters’ status and took off to a resort on one of the Caribbean islands.

I love what I do and I am a passionate type-A, hyperactive workaholic. So, for me to have a successful vacation I need to go to a place where I can leave all devices, my wallet and my watch behind and just focus on resting, slowing down, rejuvenating and having fun.

Nothing fits the bill better for me than an all-inclusive resort on a sandy beach in a warm destination. I spend all days doing only activities that pamper my soul: reading, journaling, listening to music, practicing my yoga, hanging out with my wife and eating and drinking good food and wine.

I work very hard so I make it a point to take as many vacations as possible between gigs throughout the year. Sometimes these are just short getaways and sometimes they are much longer. However, I have made it a practice to take at least two ‘proper’ vacations each year – one mid year, usually when our younger daughter goes to summer camp, and then one during Christmas break. These rejuvenating vacations have become consistent and empowering opportunities to reflect on my personal and professional progress, as well as chance to create my aspirations, dreams and plans for the next six months.

Most professionals work extremely hard and for long hours every day. This is especially the case in companies that are constantly looking to reduce expenses and increase their people’s productivity and results. Many employees and managers find managing their work-life balance to be a constant struggle.

People understand the importance of taking vacations and time off. But, it seems that most people – especially in North America – are not very good at doing it. People say the right things, but many seem to relate to taking time off as a ‘luxury’ that would be ‘nice to have,’ not a mission critical ‘necessity.’ Most people don’t do a good job taking a stand for their own–and their family’s–well-being at the same level they take a stand for their work and career.

I used to think and behave this way. But, over the years as my work, travel and demands increased, and as I have grown older and wiser (with my wife’s and kid’s help, of course) I have evolved my paradigm. In fact, my mantra today is ‘work hard and play hard.’

I believe taking time off is mission critical. It is a necessity. It is something we should be accountable for just like we are for our work commitments. Why?

  1. We spend so much time working in our business but not enough time working on our business. We are so consumed by our day-to-day challenges and opportunities that we don’t get too many opportunities to ‘lift our head above water.’ People often tell me that their work is so intense and fast-paced that they don’t have time to simply stop and ‘think,’ ‘plan,’ ‘innovate’ and ‘create.’ Taking time off gives us these quality opportunities to reflect, think, create, innovate, dream and plan the next steps of taking our self-expression and success to the next level. In fact, there are some Ivy League schools that have incorporated into their curriculum periods during the day where students are instructed to ‘do nothing,’ just think and create. It makes a big difference to productivity and success.
  2. Working as hard as most of us do takes a toll. We need the time off to renew, heal and rejuvenate ourselves. It’s a ‘must’ for our well-being, productivity and longevity. We tend to look out for everything and everyone else but not ourselves. We tend to always be the last priority. We work long hours, sometimes on the weekends too. We go out of our way to take care of our customers, stakeholders, projects and company, as we should… but we often neglect ourselves. Instead of taking a bolder stand for what is important to us, we often tend to say “yes” to all or most work requests, no matter what the personal consequence may be – like missing our kid’s recital or birthday, or other important family engagements – because we fear that saying “no” would be viewed as ‘selfish’ or lack of commitment to the company cause.
  3. Consider the fact that the divorce rates in modern countries are outrageously high. One of the reasons for the appalling statistic is our tendency to get addicted to, and overly consumed by our work and careers. There is nothing wrong with a commitment to our work and career. I am guilty of that my self. However, we would be wise to manage it in great harmony with the other parts of our life that we care about. Time off, especially with our loved ones (wife, husband, significant other and/or kids), is critical for managing these most important relationships. It’s time to reconnect but may be even more important as an opportunity to show those we love that they are still the most important part in our life. I guess that is why we must ask: “Am I working in order to live or living in order to work?” Some say that one of the differences between the North American and European cultures is that the Europeans do a better job “working to live” and in North America we tend to “live to work.”
  4. Taking time off is also a great opportunity to nurture our own soul by doing the things that we love to do and aren’t able to do for most of the year. Things like reading, writing, hiking, skiing and other activities that are important for each of us. It’s also an opportunity to explore new things that we’ve never done before; things that may be on our bucket list. Time off is a critical time to invest in our Self. After all, if we’re not in good mental, spiritual and physical condition, all the rest is irrelevant!


Make sure you make taking time off as much of a priority as everything else that is important to you.

Photo by: Moyan Brenn