Mismatched sandals on holiday

How to leave it all behind


Do you have a mantra before you go on holiday to check you’ve packed the essentials? You know the kind of thing – ‘money, toothbrush, passport, tickets?’

It seems we may now need to add ‘matching shoes’.

One of my coaching clients, a senior leader in the non-profit world, showed me this fabulous selfie of her feet at our most recent session. Delighted to finally be on leave, she’d been travelling all day before she looked down and realised to her great surprise that she wasn’t quite as well prepared for her break as she’d thought.

Work had been so full on; her mind so distracted, that in her rush to get to the airport, she’d put on mismatching Birkenstocks almost in a trance. Work, not holiday, was still uppermost in her mind.

Leaving it all behind

In my coaching we often have to tackle ‘leaving it all behind’ in preparation for big breaks and for creating restorative space at weekends and evenings. I hear how there’s so much to do and how important everything is. I hear about the temptation to work madly until the very moment of departure. I hear about plans to take all the loose ends with them to finish ‘later’.

I get it, I really do. But a mind distracted with work over a break is not the refresher that you need personally – nor one which allows you to give your very best to the organisation. It short changes everybody.

So, what works instead?

Here are some ideas that my clients have found useful:

  • The day before you go on holiday, don’t plan any meetings except with the person you’re leaving in charge. It’s so tempting to pack as much as possible into your final day, but it will leave you frazzled. Use the time instead to clear your desk of all essentials, and make sure everyone knows what’s expected of them during the time you’re away. Talking of which…
  • …. Trust, trust, trust those you leave behind. You don’t want to be worrying about what’s going on. You don’t want to be calling them up, checking in endlessly. It will spoil your break, create stress on both sides and disempower your team to make decisions and get on in your absence. Make sure people know what’s needed, how you can be contacted in an emergency – then let it go.
  • Recognise that you have a choice about what work you do in your break. As a senior leader you may well have a few pieces of work that absolutely won’t wait. Or you may have to spend some quiet, focused time working on the next year’s strategy. Fair enough. But decide what those essential ‘holiday tasks’ are beforehand and how long they will take – and plan to do only those. No more.
  • Make sure that you share with your fellow holidaymakers how much work you intend to do and when. This will really help you stick firmly to your intentions. If your partner, kids or friends understand in advance that you’ll be spending, say, three mornings in quiet seclusion – and that’s it – they will be much more accepting. But that’s your lot. No reaching for the phone to check work emails on a lazy morning on the terrace. Not only would that break your holiday resolve – it would send a signal to your family that you’re not really there with them after all. Is that what you want?
  • Before you go…. take a little daydreaming time – in a bath at the end of the day, perhaps! – to engage imaginatively with your break. See yourself there. Step into it. Envisage the peaceful reality that you want. Imagine spending lazy evenings with a book, cycling along that beautiful bit of Devon coast, sipping a Chianti by the fountain. It’s about going into your break consciously. It doesn’t have to take long at all, but when you visualise like this, it’s way more likely to become a reality.
  • Get on top of those details that have the potential to send you into a pre-holiday freak-out well ahead of time. Write the reference number of those Eurostar tickets in your phone. Check out where that remote cottage in Wales is. It really helps with going into the holiday feeling calm and in control.
  • Do your packing a few days before. It seems so obvious but it’s amazing how hard this is to do if you don’t plan it. Looking for that travel adapter up to the wire is extraordinarily stressful when you’ve a plane to catch.
  • Oh…..and put your matching sandals by the front door….

Over to you

I’d love to hear what you think of these ideas and your personal strategies for leaving it all behind. Do share them here by writing in the Comments section below.

What next?

If switching off is a problem for you, give me a call on 0208 772 7808 or 07958 501 427 or drop me an email. I’d be pleased to have a totally no-obligation chat about how coaching can help.



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