It might seem counter-intuitive, but a vacation could be one of the most productive activities you’ll ever embark on. Whaaat? How does lounging by the pool, exploring the Grand Canyon or driving to Illinois for a family reunion get anything accomplished? Besides the obvious health benefits, it’s all about perspective. And it often works like this:

When you’re not bound by the rules and conventions of work, you’re apt to gravitate toward your most honest, natural interests. What do you feel like doing when you have the free time to do it — is it something physically active, or are you drawn to something more thoughtful? Will you cherish spending time with your loved ones — or just revel in sleeping in? Will you seek personal greatness on a hard bike ride, challenge your mind by reading a book on quantum theory or nourish your soul by enjoying a family barbecue in your backyard? Whatever it is, it might give you a fresh look at what’s truly important to you. That, in turn, could offer you a better gauge on the level of satisfaction your career pursuit is likely to provide.

And, if you’re prone to challenging your body — or your mind — while you’re on vacation, consider the personal strengths and strategies you employed to set a personal best on that bike ride or get through a 700-page science book inside of a week. Do you use those skills in your regular job? If so, maybe you’ve just sharpened them by applying them to your vacation goals. If not, how could you bring them to work to help improve your career performance?

The important thing to remember is that vacations aren’t just time to recharge. They’re an opportunity to pull back and view your work life from an entirely different angle. Just as you’re apt to return from your time off with a cellphone full of scenic photos, vacations provide time to re-evaluate your skills and take a longer view on how your career path is going.

So here are a few thoughts to consider while you’re vacationing this summer:

  1. If, when vacation is over, you could return to a brand-new career, what would it look like? What would you change — and why?
  2. What (besides sleeping in!) gives you joy when you’re not in your workplace? Could any of those things be incorporated into your day-to-day routine when you get back from vacation? And what effect might they have on the quality of your work?
  3. Take a moment to breathe in how you’re feeling while you’re away from work. What would it take for you to maintain that feeling every day?

 

Happy travels!