productivityHow to Increase Your Productivity: Take a Vacation!

For the last six months I’ve been working two jobs — my continuing work with consulting clients and launching VolunteerPro, my new online community.

To say my self-care has been lacking would be an understatement. When I found myself losing sleep and getting grumpy with my team, I knew it was time to take a break.

But, I worried — Could I really afford to take time off (I mean REAL time off) with so much on my plate?

The answer is “YES!” And here’s why…

Vacations can actually increase productivity. BUT, in order to boost your productivity, you must actually stop and rest.

I have been feeling overwhelmed lately, and for good reason. Our brains take in information equivalent to 174 newspapers per day (five times as much as we did in 1986) and we watch an average of five hours of TV a day.

And, it’s no wonder that unplugged summer camps for adults are a booming business.

As I wrangle a new start-up, my brain has been bombarded with brand new information and processes that must be mastered. I’ve also had to switch between consulting projects and the community launch, attending to social media, email, requests from team members, etc.

It’s all new and invigorating, but also demands that the conscious part of my brain (the task-positive network) work on overdrive until it begins to fail.

How to Increase Your Productivity and Re-charge the Brain

The brain needs a rest in order to reset so it can work in its most optimal state. For me, three things need to change:

  • My brain needs more time for the task-negative network (the brain’s daydreaming mode). Since only one brain system can work at a time, I need to turn off the task-positive network. Finding a balance between the two is key.
  • My brain’s attentional filter also needs a break. By reducing the number and speed of interruptions (e.g., email, social media, texts, switching tasks, etc.), I can decrease the stress on my brain to have to continually decide what is most important to attend to. Again, since the brain can only pay real attention to one thing at a time it becomes exhausted switching gears so much.
  • I need to take a TRUE vacation (away from all email, social media, personal and professional obligations, etc.), and plan for my re-entry into the workplace. Contrary to popular believe, research has shown that vacations alone don’t make you happy. But, you can increase the positive results of taking time off by taking a real vacation, which means not checking email, or with colleagues or volunteers, at all and staying away from those small projects that need “just a few hours” of your time. To get the most benefit out of your vacation, you must RELAX, and deeply.
  • I need to plan ahead so I don’t get slammed when I return and ruin the good effects of my time off. I’m planning for my return by setting aside a half day on my first day back just to go through email. That way, I can calmly get caught up without distraction, and it’s not immediately overwhelming.

I know that, in our work obsessed, uber connected culture, it’s hard to step away and take true time for yourself. In fact, research shows Americans are taking fewer vacations than in the past — about 56% take a week-long vacation each year, down from around 80% in the 1970s. Thats A HUGE decline.

Nonprofit workers, in particular, have a hard time letting go of work responsibilities. You care so much for others, but what about self care? Maybe it’s time to focus on you?

My Lazy Summer Plan

As I launch into my week off, I’m savoring the possibility of some lazy summer days with my sister and nephews – roasting marshmallows in the smoky fire pit, having water gun fights in the scorching sun, enjoying juicy summer peaches from the roadside stand, hiking on a cool wooded path, and just getting back in touch with my true meaning and purpose.

When I return to work, I know I’ll be more grounded, centered, and able to make the best decisions for my clients, my members, my team, and my business. By focusing on recharging my brain,

I hope to return to the levels of productivity I’m accustomed to. See you on the other side.

For More …

For more tips on how to take a vacation that will boost your productivity, check out what the Greater Good Center at Berkeley has to say about it here.

What About You?

What are you doing to increase your self care and take a REAL break. Share them in the comments below.