So, Christmas break is almost here, and you’re trying to take some time off.
Ever notice that’s what driven leaders say all the time?
I’m going to try to take two weeks off.
I’ll try to unplug.
I’m trying to relax.
We A-types stink at vacation, don’t we?
It’s also really tough if you’re married to us. Or, we’re your parents.
How do I know this?
Because I’m one of you. I’m speaking my native tongue.
Being a driven kind of person, the idea of doing nothing but resting is unsettling for me.
But I also understand how important it is.
Sabbath is God’s idea. And, as I discovered when I burned out, if you don’t take the Sabbath, the Sabbath will take you.
I know people who can take time off easily – they don’t worry, they’re never tempted to check email, they can easily shut down social media for a week, and they find a hammock to be relaxing.
That person is not me. I think a few of you can relate.
Over the years, I’ve developed these 5 rules for rest that, if observed, make shutting off all the devices and truly taking a break easier. I’ve shared them before, but I have to come back to them again and again.
When I don’t follow them, I ruin my holiday. And I’ve done that a few times too.
Overall, the rules help me, as a driven person, relax better.
See if they help you.
1. Don’t just take Christmas break, prepare for it.
I used to run into my holidays full speed, and it would take me half my holidays to unwind.
Take some time before your holiday to prepare for your Christmas break. Use your evenings to rest up before you leave.
Pack ahead of time. Build the anticipation. When I do this, I can start day one of vacation fully rested and ready to enjoy.
Last year for the first time, I took a week off before our family left for a week together, just to unwind alone and be ready for them when they were free. It helped me be more fully present, so I could focus on what truly mattered in the moment – making new memories with my loved ones.
2. Equip your team, and yourself, for your break
Leaving work behind is hard work.
I wasn’t good at this for years. Now I spend time before leaving asking, “What does my team need while I’m away so they can run optimally and so I can rest?”
Or this year, what do we ALL need to do so EVERYONE can have a full break?
If all of that is lined up, then they have what they need and I can get what I need: peace of mind, knowing everything will be okay.
The next step is even more important: Let go.
If you do this right when you’re away, your ministry will grow even when you’re not engaged in it. I’ve taken a month off more than once. And when I truly release the team to do what they do best, our church has grown.
Last year, when I was off for a month, my podcast had the single biggest month in its history to that point (I lined up all the episodes before I left and gave my team the job of posting them).
You know what I learned? When you let go, you grow and things grow.
Early in my leadership, I never would have believed it. Now I do.
3. Delegate authority and responsibility
While this is good practice all the time, make sure you leave behind real decisions, real authority and real responsibility.
If you can’t give the entire team a break, then make sure those who are off are truly off, which means delegation. Let your team can call the shots while you’re away. Don’t look at email at all or let your assistant handle it for your entire break. If you don’t have an assistant, use an autoresponder and plan to spend your first or second day back sorting through email.
And if your assistant is off, everyone should just hit the auto-responder.
If you plan for it, you won’t worry about it while away. A solid plan defeats worry.
4. Focus on what fuels you
Christmas break can be draining for anyone with all the gatherings, travel, and people.
Smart leaders know what refuels them and decide to at least sneak in some time for themselves.
For some, that might be reading a book by the fire. For others, it might be movies and dinner. And, for others, it might be throwing parties and having a full house.
Don’t let someone else’s idea of rest determine how you will rest, or you’ll end up returning to work exhausted.
That’s exactly why, so many times, you end up saying you need a vacation to recover from your vacation.
If you don’t know what fuels you, even your vacation can drain you.
5. Pick a goal for your holidays
My drivenness can make me feel like I waste time while away. Obviously, one of my goals is to spend meaningful time with my family; I also use vacation time as a time to connect with God.
But I’ve learned if I pick some goals for my holidays, it makes me feel better and enjoy my time alone and with my family more. Your goal can be as simple as reading a few books, taking some pictures, or even a fitness goal.
Or it might be to sleep eight hours every night or hike for 10 miles.
I feel less restless and more rested if I set a few goals.
If you’re a driven person, maybe you can relate.
Without a new strategy and approach, it’s easy to continue to:
- Sacrifice family on the altar of work
- Overcommit and underdeliver
- Have no time for what you actually want to do
- Struggle to get time off to refuel and relax
Worst of all, other people—other tasks, jobs, and projects—will continue to hijack your life.
It’s time to change that by implementing a strategy that works.
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