Do vacations make you feel nervous?

July 27, 2011 · 9 comments

I just recently returned from a two-week family vacation. This year, for the first time since I’ve been a business owner, I didn’t check in to see “how things were going” every day while I was gone.

During the 23 years I owned my printing firm, I had this little vacation ritual — at one o’clock every day, no matter where I was or what I was doing, I would always stop everything and call the office. I’m telling you, I’ve always been the kind of guy who doesn’t like to miss a deadline, so it didn’t make any difference if I was canoeing down some remote river — because if it was one o’clock, I’d make sure I quit paddling long enough to call the office. I’ve also been guilty of checking my e-mails regularly while on vacation. It didn’t take me long to discover that Verizon makes these little portable wifi gizmos that allow you to use your laptop computer just about anywhere. It really comes in handy if you’re in some backwoods place like Yellowstone Park. It gives you something “productive” to do while you’re waiting for Old Faithful to do its thing.

I think a lot of printers do the same thing. Have you ever been at a big printing industry event or trade show and noticed how many printers immediately start dialing on their cell phone as soon as the seminar they’re attending is over?

Do you have a hard time disconnecting from work when you’re on vacation?

Well… as I’ve gone along in my life, I’ve come to appreciate the quiet moments of solitude more and more. Earlier this year, I announced to my family that our upcoming family vacation would be free of all digital devices and that I would not spend any time calling the office during our vacation. Have you ever tried this? What happened to me was pretty interesting. If it’s been years since you’ve taken a totally disconnected vacation, let me tell you what you can expect.

  • The first two days were excruciatingly nerve-racking, not knowing what was going on at work.
  • On the third day, being totally disconnected from work started to feel pretty relaxing.
  • By the fourth day, a part of my brain evidently shut down because I started to go three or four consecutive hours without even thinking about work.
  • At the end of our two-week vacation, I found myself hardly ever wondering about work at all… and I thoroughly enjoyed the events of each day, without being preoccupied.

We all know we should take a vacation from time-to-time and shouldn’t feel anxious or guilty worrying about our business while we’re gone, but many of us feel anxious and guilty anyway. The printing business can be very intense because of all the constant performance pressures — not to mention troublesome computers, deadlines, employees, or the concerns we all feel about the future. As printers, all the stuff we have to deal with can cause us to get pretty uptight.

This year, my two-week family vacation turned out to be one of the best things I’ve done lately. You see, I have a good life and much to be grateful for, but needed to slow down a little bit. Reconnecting with yourself — and your family — is always a good thing. My two-week vacation was just enough of a timeout for me to make a few minor, mid-course corrections to improve my life a little. I got in the habit of going to bed just a little earlier each day, I started to ride my bike again, and I realized that when I emptied my head of some of the “clutter” that fills it during a normal workday, I was able to come up with some fresh new ideas that I would’ve never thought of otherwise. Ironically, my vacation helped my business.

So, let me ask you… Are you going to take a vacation this summer?

I hope you do. It might just turn out to be one of the best things you can do to help your printing firm.

Oh… by the way… when I got back to the office, I walked in fully expecting most of my employees to come running up to me, saying something like, “I’m so glad you’re back, boss. Can you help resolve this problem, or can you help me fix this issue?” Instead, what I discovered was that since I wasn’t “available” to help fix the problems, they just went ahead and fixed problems themselves. In fact, I’m not even sure some of them noticed I’d been gone. Cool. What a great way to end a vacation.

… I knew I should have stayed one more week!

Leave a Comment

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Cora Purvine July 27, 2011 at 6:42 pm

I would probably be like that, but we haven’t had a vacation in 40 years

If we ever take one I’ll let you know

Cora.

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Mike Stevens July 29, 2011 at 7:05 am

I give you permission to take a vacation, you deserve it Cora!

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Rick Schildgen July 27, 2011 at 4:47 pm

Right on Mike – I too took a 2 week vacation, and since it was out in the wilderness fishing for the first week and then on a cruise to Alaska for the second, I found that I could not much get connected even if I wanted to – so I just did not bother! It was great…

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Mike Stevens July 29, 2011 at 7:05 am

Hi Rick, hey nice to hear from you! I hope to see you in Chicago this fall at the owners conference and GRAPH EXPO…
-mike

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David Monto July 27, 2011 at 4:40 pm

Mike,

Long, long time ago I decided I did not need to check in while I was away.

I found that things ran as smooth, if not smoother, when I was away as the
employees had to make their own decisions on projects and they usually made the
right choices.

When I came back, I usually did not have much to do and wished I had stayed
away longer.

David V. Monto

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Kim Schoppert July 27, 2011 at 3:55 pm

Mike,
This is so true! Scott and I would call “home” year after year and find ourselves frustrated with everything that was “wrong”. Worry if the problems were resolved? Only to think, are there anymore that they just aren’t telling us about? And as you know it just went on and on. It wasn’t until we took a “real vacation” and sailed into the sunset that we broke our ritual of calling “home”. I must admit that we still call once, maybe twice during a two week vacation, but our “family” knows that we are just calling to say hello, and tell them what a wonderful time we are having! No phone equals and great vacation. And for the lap top, it’s great for Christmas shopping when you’re on a island for two weeks in December ! LOL !!!
Thanks for sharing 🙂
Kim

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Mike Stevens July 29, 2011 at 7:09 am

Hi Kim, I still have the little ‘Dicken’s village’ print shop you and Scott gave me many years ago. It is sitting on my book shelf. To this day, it is the ONLY little miniature print shop I’ve seen. It is a treasure to me. Thanks again!

-mike

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Emily Lai July 27, 2011 at 2:35 pm

It is so true about being away and wanting to stay connected. On my first vacation away, I spent $1000 in long distance keeping in touch with the office and they were constantly calling me for even small things. You see I come from Malaysia, being 26 hours by flight with 12 hours difference didnt help.
Finally on my second vacation, I told them that they had to make their own decisions as if they own the company and do what it is right, my vacation went better, still there were calls. My family was so fed up with me that they said if I do that on the next holiday, I shouldnt come back. So last winter when I went away again, it was the best holiday because in Seoul, they dont use the same phone system we have in Canada, so therefore no calls, very few emails and I was basically left in peace. It felt so good as you said, coming back to the office, everything was in tuned, no one came running up and said you have these pile of problems sitting on your table and now you have to handle it.
It all boils down to having very good employees who are willing to do the extra mile! And of course being appreciative of them makes a world of difference.
Thanks for your post. I love reading it when I have time.

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Mike Stevens July 29, 2011 at 7:02 am

Yikes! A $1000.00 phone bill! I had to laugh, but oh my goodness, that ‘s a lot of money. Thanks for sharing your story…

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