‘It takes me a few days to unwind, slow down, and mentally disconnect from work. Then I can have a full week of rest and holiday before I mentally find myself thinking about work again. I’ve found it takes 3 – 4 days to unwind. And usually about 3 days before going back, I start thinking about work again. So I’ve learned that to get one week of rest, I need two weeks off.’
This was one of many conversations with one of my uncles decades ago. I think about it each time I’m scheduling my time off. What my uncle was telling me and what I’ve learned over the years is the quality of my time off is almost entirely determined by those first few days. The unwinding days. Days that almost feel or appear like wasted time off. However, when I skip them, I don’t rest very well.
They are a bit of conscious decoupling. And they are the most strategic, essential and efficient days. They are not empty days. They can be filled with walking, odd jobs, sleep, work tasks that didn’t quite get done, and so on. And it is the time of weaning myself off email and notifications. There is no formula. It is space between. And it is the efficiency coefficient determining the value of what follows.
In a similar way, we need space like this before strategic discussions. All humans struggle to switch between the day to day operational discussions or the project activities and seeing the whole. Seeing the trends. Seeing where we fit in the organisational culture and external context we work.
The quality of our strategic discussions is directly proportional to the efficiency pause before we start. Often we skip the pause. Often we try to switch from operational to strategic as we move agenda items. And it rarely works. Or we find ourselves having the same discussions over and over again because we are distracted by the day to day.
Understanding the pause. Seeing it not as inefficient or wasted time, but rather as essential makes a huge difference. And yes, it is hard. It requires discipline and sometimes difficult conversations.
Do it anyway. The choice is up to us.