Katy Howell: A holiday is not about escaping work
It’s 5am. I am sitting on a balcony. One eye on the view (pictured) and the other on my laptop. I’m on holiday and I am working.
I know that this is counter to the received wisdom. Usual advice varies between being completely tech-free, to at least switching work off while on holiday. There are articles abound on vacations of mindfulness and the need to tune out the everyday. It’s good for the soul, prevents burn-out and brings you back refreshed.
A holiday is not about escaping work
The problem is, that this doesn’t apply to me and many other indie owners that I know. We are not forced to work. We love our careers. We think about our businesses a lot. Not because we have to, but because it’s in our DNA.
For me, a holiday is not the absence of work (or social media – after all, it’s my profession), it is its integration with a different environment. Despite all the dire warnings from advisors that you need a total break, I counter that for some of us, mixing work and vacation time is as good as, if not better than, a break. In fact, we cannot make it work any other way. Let me explain:
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The work withdrawal effect
It always seems as though you run at top speed towards a holiday. Inevitably, the pitches and proposals always peak just before you go. The problems escalate and the workloads increase exponentially and then you are meant to just stop? Relax, sunbathe, chill? Yeah, never going to fucking happen.
My mind is always active. Busy brain. If I just stop, anxiety creeps in. I wonder what’s happening at the office. I get restless. Restlessness turns into destructiveness (or alcoholism – there are always too many cocktail options, and I feel compelled to try them all!)
It’s far better to compromise. To have family time and time out - in between checking into the business. I read work books, surf social like a mad crazed teenager and damn well enjoy it. And something surprising always happens. I do switch off, but in an alternative way.
I look at my agency from a different perspective. I am not in it all day every day. I am not sat with the team. I certainly am not working 8+ hours a day. Instead, I am able to view work from a distance. Stopping and doing something else between contact means I get time to think. I read articles, watch Ted talks, sit and contemplate problems or new ideas. It is inspiring; refreshing; exciting. And I love it.
Prepping for the pool
It’s worth pointing out that I don’t advocate bringing your everyday workloads to the poolside. In fact, I don’t plan to do work. I prepare for work. So I will pick the one or two things I have been meaning to do and want to do. Stuff like new product scopes, an idea I want to develop, or an opinion I want to write about.
I also prepare to feed my mind. Downloading books, podcasts and programmes.
Horror of horrors, I don’t even turn off my email. When that little red dot on my app lights up, I clear it. I check-in. Otherwise, FOMO would have me in a total flap. I would just spend my time wondering what is happening and fretting.
For me it isn’t only about dipping in and out of the pool, it is dipping in and out of work too.
A room with another view
In the world of digital connectivity, there is little time to think about things from a different perspective, a different view. It’s funny how you absorb the local culture, the history and the energy.
Sitting at a street café watching people, I drift in and out of conversations with my partner. We chew over work, we discuss the kids (grown up now) and we talk about the politics (a lot right now). We untangle problems as we visit art museums, join tour guides and walk through city gardens.
Work ideas have a way of tumbling through. Even when we are stuck with our nodes in social, we experiment, follow trends and spot the latest wave of creativity. It’s absorbing and brings colour to thinking about work.
For me, a holiday is not getting away from it all. It's about hauling my laptop, iPad and various gadgets with me through airport security (and all the hell that entails). It is about having the opportunity to creatively explore my work, to think more deeply, without bounds. To allow my train of thought run, without being prematurely derailed by imminent deadlines, client briefs and proposals. I come back bursting with ideas and thoughts and frankly, more refreshed than lying sozzled by a pool for two weeks would ever do for me.