Holiday Hacks for Founders
Every holiday season shows us that finding a balance between work and leisure can be a real struggle when we have so many commitments. As we come back from this season, here are 10 tips for ensuring your next vacation is a good one.
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I dug up an old thread with some founder friends and wanted to share their advice anonymously. Getting it right means coming back refreshed and full of energy. Unfortunately, most of us get it wrong.
There are no silver bullets, but below are my 10 tips for hacking your holiday:
1. Adjust your expectations
Going on holiday doesn’t automatically mean getting rid of all the stress and anxiety. They’re coming with you in the suitcase and you need to slowly unpack them like the rest of your baggage.
As one founder put it: People often go on holiday to ‘get away’ from their day-to-day life, but what they really want is to get away from themselves (thoughts, problems and feelings).
Don’t beat yourself up about checking your email or keeping up with the relevant news occasionally.
2. Boredom can be good for business
Some of our best ideas appear while we’re in the shower. Researchers are fascinated with boredom and have found it offers some surprising benefits. By encouraging contemplation and daydreaming, boredom can inspire creativity. So putting your phone away on holiday might be ‘boring’ but it can also give rise to your next great idea.
3. Keep a journal
Journaling every day has been linked to several health benefits. A study by psychologist and researcher James Pennebaker of the University of Texas at Austin found that regular journaling strengthens immune cells (T-lymphocytes). It’s also been found that writing about stressful events helps us come to terms with them.
So buy a notebook, and spend 10 minutes a day writing about whatever comes to mind. It may be business-related or it may be a description of the sunset you’ve just watched. It will help you get your mind organized (and perhaps even strengthen your body’s defenses).
4. Reading fiction
In the day-to-day, I mostly read non-fiction and try to learn from smart, experienced people about business and tech. I read articles and books and listen to podcasts. When you go on holiday, you may want to pick up a fiction book that will let your mind wander, amplify your empathy and improve your brain connectivity and function, according to a 2013 study published in the journal Brain Connectivity.
5. Replenish your energy
The positive effect that healthy eating and sleeping or a good conversation can have on our bodies, even in a short period of time, can be surprising. There’s no need to set an alarm clock or eat junk food when you’re on holiday. Take care of your physical self and you’ll relax more than you realize. No one is designed to work non-stop.
6. Get active
Several people recommended a hike, a bike ride or group activity to get your mind off work. I previously discussed the benefits of sports in my post.
7. Trust the people you left in charge
It can be stressful to leave on a two week holiday without providing every possible method of contact. If you’re a control freak, taking a vacation may sounds like a nightmare because you won't know what’s going on. Set an out-of-office and give your team the hotel number for emergencies only. You may be positively surprised to realize that all those emails you didn’t check have largely been dealt with by the time you get back.
8. Phone settings and notifications
Stress and anxiety on a holiday aren’t always phone-related, but removing the temptation can help.
The ideal situation is to put your phone away completely. If you can't, there are descending degrees of disengagement you can choose: no notifications, putting the phone on airplane mode and checking in just when Wi-Fi is available, silent mode, and calls only mode.
Other tips include establishing some restrictions on phone usage while on holiday, like only checking the phone after 8pm or during the weekend.
9. Create a little ritual
Rituals can reduce anxiety and increase people’s confidence. A study published in Scientific American in 2013 said "while some rituals are unlikely to be effective — knocking on wood will not bring rain — many everyday rituals make a lot of sense and are surprisingly effective. Take a ritual with you on holiday. It can be as simple as you want it to be."
Your holiday rituals can be something you bring from home or a simple behavioral routine like a regular walk that helps increase emotional stability and confidence.
10. Pick the holiday that’s right for you
For go-getters, high-performers, smart and creative types, sitting on a beach for two weeks may be the opposite of a relaxing holiday. As one founder put it, the sense of purpose they receive from building their dream, getting things done and getting over hurdles makes them happy. Sitting idly on a beach doesn’t. So do whatever makes you happy. At the end of the day, that’s the whole purpose of a holiday.
This post was originally published on Medium.
Eze Vidra is the founder of Techbikers, a non-profit organization supporting children's education and tech community building through cycling, and the CIO of digital health company Antidote.me. He is the former head of Google for Entrepreneurs and a former general partner in Google Ventures Europe. You can find him on twitter at @ediggs.