I remember the days when August was a slow and quiet month in Malta, with people enjoying the sea and having a shutdown from work, but over the past years, things have changed, and many of us are slowing down without switching off completely. With the disruption of our natural patterns of work and rest according to the seasons outside, we’ve lost our ability to detach and decompress from work and interactions.

The benefits of a rested mind

When we rest, we allow our brain to recover and process all the information and distractions that we are bombarded with on a daily basis. Some of the improvements we can see are improved mood and concentration, attention span and creativity. These periods of rest help us to keep potential mental and physical health problems away. If I may paraphrase a popular saying – 60 minutes of rest a day keeps the doctor away.

What stops leaders from resting and detaching?

One of the modern beliefs is that if we are doing nothing productive, i.e. work, we are wasting our time. Nothing in nature is performing at high speed all the time. There are fast periods followed by slow ones.

Another common reason is the fear of missing out. We function in a very competitive environment, and we are kind of addicted to the feeling of being involved in many things at work and in life. This gives us a sense of productivity, control and the importance of our ‘personal brand’.

A common topic with my clients at senior leadership level is how to rest productively, and what stops them from taking a full break. One of the most valid reasons for them to keep checking their emails during holidays is the amount of work they are going to find once they are back. They often describe it as a shock! So, they prefer to keep checking and sometimes replying to emails during family holidays to mitigate the potential backlog once they are back in the office. How productive is their rest then?

Try these 6 tips this summer to regain your energy

  1. Take a longer break. Short breaks are good, but as soon as we start to unpack and let go of work topics and worries, and it is over. A longer vacation, ideally two weeks, gives you enough time to detach, rest and recover. The first couple of days you are still figuring out what is going on and why you are not at work, your mind is still working to solve some pending problems and challenges. The next few days you start to get accustomed to your new daily routine and you are seeing that your mood and sleep are improving. The most productive rest will come in the second week, when you will be recovering quicker and enjoying your days and activities more.

  2. Prepare your break in advance and get a backup. Having someone as the first line of response that is good enough to maintain the work and address common issues and distinguish what is urgent and what is not will make your time off much more productive and relaxed. Prepare this person (or persons) in advance, and make sure that you are very clear with your expectations for them to be a gatekeeper. We know that delegation and empowerment are elements of effective leadership, and there is no better time to employ this skill than your summer holiday.

  3. Digital detox. Give yourself some time without technology. Most mobile phones nowadays have a tool to monitor and control the amount of usage or simply turn the flight mode on and enjoy the quiet time. Leave your phone somewhere out of sight and manage the urge to constantly reach out and check what is going on or read work emails. Try to read a book or have a casual chat with a friend or a family member whenever the urge is there.

  4. Practice gratitude. Even a small amount of gratitude can have a big impact on yourself and others. Saying thank you more often to the people that are around us is a good way to show appreciation and care for what they do for us, and this will mean a lot to them.

    Often, we hear sayings like “count your blessings”, and this time of rest is a good opportunity to focus on what we have in our lives and see the impact that has on us instead of thinking of what we don’t have or our wishes. Counting our blessings can be powerful from a psychological, physical and interpersonal perspective. Grateful people are more attentive, alert, energetic and feel more content in general.

  5. Reconnect with people. We are social by nature, and enjoy the company of like-minded people. It is a good time to meet with friends, wear casual clothes and relax.  Catching up with the latest developments in your lives will trigger stories, emotions, and good memories. Having a good laugh is one of the most destressing and emotionally recharging things that we can have during our summer break, at almost no cost!

  6. Learn something. Giving our brain new information not related to work will stimulate our learning stamina and open doors for new material to be better received. Discover your interests and ask yourself – “If I have one free hour a day, what do I want to learn?” Stimulate your curiosity by exploring topics or skills that are new to you.

Bonus tip

Be a role model. Think about the example you will be giving to your team. A high-performance team will need challenges and inspiration, but will have to rest as well, and be ready for the next season or a new target to reach. As a leader, you are responsible for setting the right culture – we work hard but we rest well. This is the strategy of every successful sports team. By giving this example, you will normalise the practice of detaching from work for a longer period, and will reduce the chances of burnout and absence from work.

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