Wondering How to Get Back to Work After a Getaway? Try These Tips!

An overflowing inbox. A full voicemail. A crisis, or two, or three.

The idea of coming back from a summer vacation, or even a long holiday weekend, can fill even the most organized among us with just a slight sense of dread.

To get physically and mentally into the swing of things on your return, try putting the B.A.C.K. method in place:

1. Big picture

Before getting caught up in the raging river of small details, you will want to begin by catching up on what has happened while you were away. Answer these two questions:

  • Is there any recent news regarding your department or company you need to know about?
  • What is the status of that major project you were working on when you left?

Although it seems like a short time, a lot can happen over a week or a long holiday weekend. One executive I know came back from a four-day vacation to an email informing him that the company had been sold.

Before you leave, put one or two staff members in charge of preparing a big-picture report to be presented when your return. No staff to delegate to? Ask a co-worker to keep tabs on the happenings at work, and offer to do the same for them the next time they are out on vacation.

2. Actions

What important requests that require action came from your boss, peers, staff, or clients while you were gone? Make a list in order of priority, and then email or call each person to:

  • Acknowledge that you have received their request
  • Provide a timeline of when it will be handled
  • Inform them who the item has been delegated to or where the request should be redirected

Remember, for every day you were gone, it takes an hour to catch up. This means a 7-day holiday away will require seven hours’ worth of work upon your return — just to catch up. You may not be able to get everything done within the first two days back, but by scheduling the actions you need to take over the next week, you will get it all done.

3. Communications

While you were away, it’s likely a ton of snail mail, email, and phone calls piled up. Not all of these incoming communications warrant dropping everything and responding right away. Try organizing your communications into the following priorities:

  • Handle right away.
  • Can wait a few days.
  • Handle next week.

The first one or two days back, respond to the first group. Schedule the second group for your third and fourth day back, and put the last group off until the following week.

4. Keep taking breaks

You will be more focused and effective if you can avoid getting stressed and overwhelmed on your first few days back. One practical way to do this is to force yourself to take a morning, lunch, and afternoon break on your first few days back. Studies show that taking a few breaks at work gives the brain a chance to take the equivalent of a cat nap and return to the tasks at hand more focused and refreshed.

Ultimately, it’s the simple things — a short walk to Starbucks, a few well-placed phone calls, a schedule of prioritized to-do’s — that keep the stress of getting back from ruining all the relaxation from your time away.

This article first appeared on Inc.com.

Out-of-Town Team-Building Activities: Try These 3 Fun Ways to Bond

One of the great things about the global economy in my opinion is that it leads to an opportunity to have meetings, attend conferences, and gather groups in locations far and wide.

In between the marketing meetings and business opportunities, many groups are looking for an activity that combines experiencing the culture, seeing the city, and improving team spirit. Here are a few short, easy, and fun team-building activities to consider on your next business trip abroad.

Learn to make traditional foods with a local chef.

Every country in the world is famous for some type of food and cooking schools in every city, offering classes where your team can learn to make traditional dishes from a local chef. Almost all the schools focus on the classics.

For example in Spain, your group can whip up a seafood paella, while improving their communication skills. In France they can try their hand at making a warm, crusted bread – while bonding over a nice Bourdeux.

Most classes include the meal, a glass of wine, and a trip to the local outdoor market to select and buy fresh ingredients.

Create a group work of art, craft or performance.

In the same way that each country is famous for its food, each nation proudly offers an art, craft, music or dance specialty as well. From lei making in Hawaii, to Bollywood dancing in New Delhi, private group workshops are available to teach your team the local culture, while they bond.

I recently ran across a unique offering in Barcelona based on creating mosaics. The Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí is well known for his use of broken tiles to create art and sculptures.

Your team can create their own mosaic masterpiece by doing a group smash of big, vibrant tiles into small, colored pieces and then placing them to create a large group mosaic.

Go climb a rock.

The typography of various parts of the world offer an almost unlimited number of options for outdoor team building activities. Rock climbing in Yosemite, kayaking in Alaska, horse back riding in Scotland, take your pick.

While their are limits to what your HR Department will let you do (and not do), physical, outdoor activities can be a powerful bonding experience between co-workers.

Take an off the path tour.

Instead of taking your team on the typical guided tour of a cities main sites, why not go beyond the expected and do something a bit more unique. For example, try a fragrance and aroma tour through Le Marais in Paris. Here your nosey group will be guided to the local smells of fresh baguettes baking, Parisian perfume, and intense French cheeses.

One of my personal favorites this year was a Game Of Thrones tour in Girona, Spain. This hit TV series is famous for among other things shooting in cool, beautiful and interesting locations around the globe including Spain, Iceland, Croatia, Ireland, Morocco and more. Most of which offer a tour of where the show was filmed.

I’ve spoken at enough conferences to know that while it’s tempting (and typical) to plan team activities around eating out, it’s been my experience that taking people just a bit out of their comfort zone creates a better bonding experience.

The rich abundance of food, culture, and art, offered around the world provide a chance to take your team beyond the ordinary sit-down dinner, to a stand-up experience they will long remember.

This article originally appeared on Inc.com.

What You Need to Do if You Find Yourself Near a Terrorist Attack

I was sitting in a charming cafe in the El Born area of Barcelona last week when my cell phone started ringing a mile a minute. The first message said, “We just heard about the van incident in Barcelona. Are you okay?”

I looked up to ask my friend if she knew what they were talking about. She, however, was too busy looking at the flood of texts she was now receiving. We shortly realized that a terrorist attack had occurred a mere 800 meters from where we were sitting. A van had plowed into a group of tourists, already killing 12 and injuring dozens of others.

Within a few minutes, the entire city was on lockdown. Taxi service was suspended, helicopters were flying over century-old churches searching for the culprits, shops were sliding their aluminum doors shut, and we were requested to move inside — and stay there. We had no idea when we would be able to leave, how we would get home, or even much about what was happening.

We quickly ducked into a hotel on the square and grabbed a spot in the bar lounge, where we sat sipping sangria for four hours. The roads back to our hotel were closed, so even walking back to our Airbnb was not an option.

It was a tense, emotional period of time, and honestly I wasn’t prepared for it, but I walked away with these six important tips about how to handle this situation when it occurs:

1. Find a spot inside a hotel bar or cafe ASAP.

Within ten minutes of our sitting down in an almost empty hotel bar lounge, tourists with nowhere else to go streamed in. Many were turned away.

So your best bet is to find a cozy chair, claim it as your own, and hunker down. While you’re at it, you may want to make dinner reservations nearby as well, since those fill up in a hot minute as well.

2. Update your Facebook status.

One of the things we soon discovered was that in the social media age, information travels around the world at the speed of light. To avoid the stress of getting back to everyone who reaches out, put a general status update on your Facebook letting friends and family know that you’re okay.

One other tip: Don’t burn out your cell phone battery texting and calling everyone back home. Instead, ask one key contact person to let other people in your important circle know how you are.

3. Make a hotel reservation for the night.

In these types of situations, the amount of time you may be stuck and unable to get back to where you are staying can be hours and — in extreme cases — even days. Hotels fill up fast in these situations, so it’s a best practice to Google a few of the hotels close by and start calling to book a room for the night. You can hopefully cancel the reservation if things resolve sooner rather than later.

4. Locate a walking route to where you are staying on your GPS.

As we soon learned, walking back to where we were staying was going to be the likely outcome. Your best bet is to locate a walking route on Google Maps. Make sure to snap a screenshot of it, so you can access it later even if you don’t have an Internet connection.

5. Make friends with your fellow travelers.

There is a wonderful musical playing in NYC that was nominated for a Tony called Come from Away. It’s the story of tk passengers whose planes were diverted during 911 to a small town in Newfoundland and the townspeople who took them in. We had our own mini-experience of this. During our lockdown we met and talked with people from all over the world. We shared drinks, stories, photos, and critically, cell phone chargers.

6. Keep a level head.

The final thing I learned about these situations in Barcelona last week was to keep it all in perspective.

At one point we went to eat at the restaurant in the hotel. The staff were gracious, but understandably stressed. Meanwhile, the couple at the next table were complaining that they’d had a hard time finding a taxi to the hotel and didn’t understand why no IPA beer was being served.

Was it inconvenient to be on lockdown? Yes. But compared to those hurt and injured, or the suffering of their family members, a few hours sipping sangria in a bar lounge on lockdown is a blessing.

This article originally appeared on Inc.com.

Only Have a Few Hours in Barcelona? Follow This Easy & Fun Roadmap

One of my longstanding traditions has been to leave a few days on either side of a business trip to a city, or country, I’ve never visited. But like most business travelers, I still experience the occasional pop-in visit, a short trip for a single meeting or daylong conference.

Even in those circumstances, I still try and get in a few hours of the local culture. On a recent trip to Barcelona, I discovered just how much one could sneak in over a short break in the action.

Here’s an easy two-hour itinerary to give you just a taste:

Start at the Placa de Catalunya.

Begin your short sojourn at the center of the city, the Placa de Catalunya. This central square is well known for its grand fountains, neoclassical and avant-garde sculptures, and the massive flocks of pigeons roaming about looking to be fed.

It’s the jumping-off point for some of Barcelona’s most interesting neighborhoods and important streets, and a great place to start when you’re short on time. A large Apple store sits on the corner of the plaza, so if you have any Mac or iPhone related issues while on the road, you can kill two birds with one stone. Estimated time: 15 minutes.

Stroll Las Ramblas.

Walk across the Placa de Catalunya and arrive at a tree-lined group of streets known as Las Ramblas. Here you can wander down the pedestrian-only center of the boulevard admiring the architecture.

One note: Avoid eating at restaurants directly on the street — the food is expensive, and touristy. If you’re hungry, don’t worry. The next stop will have your mouth watering. Estimated time: 15 minutes.

Snack at Mercat de la Boqueria.

Even if you are not a foodie, the sheer shock of color, movement, and crowds makes this a worthwhile stop. Located right off Las Ramblas, the Mercat de la Boqueria is where tourists and locals alike come to buy fresh seafood, fruits of all kind, and the Spanish staple: Jamón ibérico. Small stands are peppered throughout the market, where you can sample the wares or sit down and have a meal. Estimated time: 30 minutes.

Marvel at Casa Milà.

No trip to Barcelona would be complete without a viewing of at least one of Antoni Gaudi’s world-famous buildings. Gaudi, Spain’s most famous architect, is best known for the Sagrada Família church–but it’s a bit far afield if you only have a few hours to spare.

Instead, catch one of the many taxis available in the city and go straight to the Casa Milà — also known as La Pedrera, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Hot hint: Be sure to buy your ticket online beforehand so you won’t have to wait in a long line of tourists to get in. Estimated time: 30 minutes.

Have a rooftop drink at Hotel Majestic.

Having had your fill of culture, walk a few blocks down from Casa Milà and duck into the Hotel Majestic. Head straight for the rooftop bar, where you will be rewarded with a well-made cocktail, a strong cup of café, and an uplifting view of the beach shoreline beyond.Estimated time: 30 minutes.

Find yourself with a bit more time? If you’re lucky enough to have an entire day to spend in Barcelona, add these great finds to the above itinerary.

Shop in the El Born neighborhood.

Tucked away in the narrow alleyways of these backstreets are some of Barcelona’s most stylish shops. The El Born area plays host to boutiques featuring unique home ware, clothing, gourmet foodstuffs, and more. If you’re looking for a special something to bring back home — this is the place. Estimated time: 60 minutes.

Visit the Joan Miró Museum.

Barcelona plays host to several great museums, but my favorite by far is the Fundació Joan Miró, located on Montjuïc overlooking the city. The building houses a comprehensive collection of Miró’s paintings, drawings, sculptures, and works on paper. Save time by taking a taxi there and getting your tickets ahead of time online. Estimated time: 60 minutes. 

Dine at Cera 23.

I can think of no better ending to the day than the pleasure of dining at this local Spanish restaurant. Cera 23 is located down a small alleyway in the El Raval neighborhood, this eatery’s food has a great depth of flavor made from simple ingredients.

So if foie gras ravioli with cream quince sauce or black squid-ink paella with saffron cream sounds appealing, then this might just be your idea of heaven. And as it is with all great restaurants, the mouthwatering food is matched only by the excellent service. Estimated time: 2 hours.

We’ve all read the articles on how to spend three perfect days (or 39 perfect hours) in a city. While that’s always optimal, more and more businesspeople find themselves in and out of a place within a 24- to 48-hour period.

In a city like Barcelona, it’s a shame not to at least take a few minutes to stop and smell the café.

This article originally appeared on Inc.com.

On Vacation? Get Someone Else To Do Your Work For You

This past week marked the official start of summer — and vacation season is in full swing — but a new survey from Accountemps found that 54 percent of workers say they plan on checking in with the office at least once or twice a week while on vacation. That’s up from 41 percent in 2016.

According to the survey, there were four top reasons people gave as to why they felt compelled to check in.

  • Gaining peace of mind that things are under control (54 percent)
  • Keeping projects moving along (53 percent)
  • Avoiding coming back to extra work (47 percent)
  • Preventing colleagues from feeling undue stress (34 percent)

If any of these sound familiar, here are a few strategies for how you can overcome these vacation time stealers and get away for real — goodness knows you deserve it.

Plan out specific projects vs. general to-do lists.

The key to knowing that you won’t come back to a plateful of problems is to create a list of “must do” projects that need to be dealt with, and a checklist of what specific items must get done, while you are away.

Agree with your colleagues ahead of time as to who is going to cover what. You might also want to consider assigning someone as your proxy to ensure that all work on the projects is being done on time and plan.

Create an information cheat sheet.

Provide the people who will be filling in for you with a one-stop cheat sheet Google doc of information they may need including:

  • Where to find important files
  • Policy and procedure notes
  • Location of critical project information
  • Tips they might find useful in dealing with specific people and/or situations

Use a freelancer.

Natasha Bowman, author of the book You Can’t Do That at Work! 100 Legal Mistakes That Managers Make in the Workplace, recommends sites like upwork.com, which can provide freelancers who offer peace of mind while you’re away on vacation.

“I simply provide the freelancers with pertinent information about the project,” says Bowman, who adds that freelancers are exceptional at developing presentations, drafting communications, and formatting data into Excel.

Set up your first day back now.

Avoid scheduling any meetings or phone calls for at least a day or two after your return to the office. Mark those dates off your calendar now, and make sure everyone knows those are your catch-up days.

A good formula is that for every day out of the office, you will need an hour of catch-up. So a one-week vacation requires an entire day to just find what has gone on while you were gone, and address any issues which arose in your absence.

Keep your fingers lightly on the pulse.

In an ideal world, you would be lying on a beach, your fingers wrapped around a fruity drink — rather than furiously typing texts to your colleagues. Realistically, you will have to check in to the office once or twice.

To minimize your touch-base time, use an online project management system such as Slack or Basecamp. This way you can quickly check the progress of important projects and then get back to the pressing work of hiking, biking, snorkeling, or whatever floats your vacation boat.

This article originally appeared on Inc.com.

How To Turn Your Business From a Noun to a Verb

Years ago I went to visit some friends who lived in South Lake Tahoe. As I came over the crest of the hill, the panoramic view opened up before me. White snowy mountains, a deep blue lake, and crisp green pine trees–I was hooked.

So hooked in fact that I decided to buy a cute cabin in a quiet neighborhood a few short blocks from the lake. As part of my ownership obligation, I was advised by my local realtorto make my new home as “cabiny” as possible. The reasoning behind this was that renters apparently expect a Tahoe cabin to look, well–like a Tahoe cabin.

When I inquired as to what exactly comprised this mountain-esqe decor, I was shown images of log furniture, pinecone ornamentation, and anything with a moose on it–moose placemats, moose lampshades, moose pencil cup holders, and yes, even a moose toilet paper holder.

Despite the fact that no actual moose have been seen in South Lake Tahoe for decades, the moose theme is so synonymous with cabin life that my friend Lynette and I coined the term “moosey” as a kind of shorthand to represent all things South Lake Tahoe–decoration-wise, that is.

Essentially we had transformed the word “moose” from a noun to a verb. For example, my cabin did not need an interior design update. Rather, it was in need of a moose-i-fication makeover and some moose-ing up.

The slang name for this process is “verbing.” The official term, according to etymologists, is “anthimeria,” meaning a functional shift in the use of a word.

Successful brands do this all the time. Google has now become so associated with the activity of searching the web that regardless of the search engine you may be using (Yahoo!, Bing, YouTube, etc.) the common expression is “I’m going to Google that.”

Hoping to turn a noun into a verb in your business? Bear in mind that this requires a fair amount of fate–one communications professor, Scott R. Hamula of Ithaca College, says it’s “more aspirational than achievable and involves a lot of serendipity.”

Regardless, here are three steps you can follow to help lady luck moosify (so to speak) your brand:

1. Replace a sentence for the action with a single word.

Brands that become verbalized replace sentences that represent actions with single words. For example, people don’t say, “I will Gmail that” because a word for that–“email”–already existed. They do however say, “I’ll Uber,” because prior only a sentence such as “I’m going to call a car service to get home from the party,” could convey the idea.

Ask yourself:

  • What actions do people take when they use your service or product?
  • Is there a current word that exists for that? If not, is there a single word you can extract to represent the action?
  • Are you the first to bring this to market? If not, is there an aspect of what you are doing that is first?
  • Is there a way we can make our brand an “ing” so that it is a thing?

2. Keep it to two or three syllables.

A Skype call, Google search, Photoshop image, or FedEx package. All of these have one thing in common: They’re simple to say and contain very few syllables. In general the shorter and sweeter you can keep the term, the greater the chance you have that it will catch on.

3. Socialize it.

The more you can use your noun as a verb in your marketing collateral and conversation with your customer base, the stronger the possibility that it will become verbalized. For example, Twitter created and promoted the idea of “tweeting”–and now even presidents do it.

One word of warning.

Turning your company brand into a verb can potentially endanger the trademark, if it becomes the generic term for the product or service; i.e., Xerox (for copies) and Kleenex (for tissues). Barbara Findlay Schenck, coauthor of Branding for Dummies, points out that Rollerblade inline skates spends heavily to educate consumers that rollerblading isn’t a sport; it’s a specific brand.

Consider the trademark case where Windsurfer applied for a wind-propelled, surfboard-like apparatus patented in 1968. The term was presented as a verb (windsurfing) to describe the sport of sailboarding, and the courts found the mark to be generic and no longer protectable.

If all this has your head spinning and you feel like you might need some time to step back and think about how to verbalize your brand, I’ve got a nice cabin in the woods that’s all moosed up and ready to go.

This article originally appeared on Inc.com.

5 Tips from Industry Experts on Staying Safe When Traveling Abroad

I don’t know about you, but as a frequent overseas traveler, I’ve been watching the news lately and wondering if I’m taking every precaution I reasonably can to protect my safety when traveling abroad this summer.

I reached out to some industry experts and full-time travelers for their top tips on how you can stay safe from terrorism, theft and other threats when traveling overseas.

Here are the five best pieces of advice they gave me:

1. Worry more about theft than terrorism.

“While terrorism captures the headlines, you’re far more likely to be the victim of petty crime while abroad,” says Ian Wright, founder of British Business Energy and a frequent international traveler.

Eva Doyle, who travels extensively for business, recommends the following: “If you need to check a map or the GPS app on your phone, step next to a building. Not only will you not be obstructing foot traffic, you’re also less likely to be a target of pickpockets.”

2. Dress the part.

“You may not be able to blend in, but try not to stand out,” says Matthew Hulland, who runs The Travel Blogs. The key, says Hulland, is to be aware of your surroundings. For example, if you are on a business trip to a developing nation, wearing a $10,000 watch on your wrist could make you a target of theft.

Other ways to blend in and avoid being robbed, or worse, include:

  • Don’t advertise yourself as being American. Avoid wearing overly patriotic T-shirts, hats, college sweat shirts, U.S. sports team apparel, etc., recommends FBI Special Agent Executive John Iannarelli, the author of How to Spot a Terrorist Before It’s Too Late. Yes, we love our country and we are proud to be U.S. citizens, but given the state of the world, all the experts suggested toning down identifying clothing.
  • Leave the Louis Vuitton purse at home. Depending on where you are traveling to (i.e., Paris vs. Senegal), expensive designer purses and clothing can highlight you as a target.

3. Duplicate your documents.

Leave a copy of your passport and your itinerary at home with someone safe. Whether it’s a colleague or relative, keep your information with a trusted source who can help in times of need, and make a copy of your documents to have with you.

In addition, Sheryl Hill, the Executive Director of Depart Smart, suggests you save a copy of all your documents on a secure cloud drive that you can easily access.

4. Inform your embassy.

Full-time traveler Collette Stohler, co-founder of Roamaroo, suggests applying for the government-run Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). The site allows you to enter the details of your overseas itinerary on the website, and you will be automatically connected to the corresponding embassy at your destination.

If there are any updates on security, you will receive an email or text with the relevant information. In addition, the in-country embassy will know where you are in case of emergency.

5. Keep score of your travel safety smarts.

Depart Smart, Hill’s website, offers a free 10-item quiz that scores your travel safety readiness. I’m sorry to say that despite my worldwide wanderings, I marked no on nine out of ten questions.

Many of the items were things I had never even thought of, including:

  • Could you ask for help and identify your location in the local language?
  • Is your personal health information translated into the local language?
  • Do your emergency contacts have Power of Attorney and active passports good for six months beyond the date of your return?
  • In the U.S., the emergency phone number is 911. It is different in most countries and can be separate numbers (e.g., fire, ambulance, police). Do you know the emergency number(s) for your destination country?

Once you’ve taken the quiz, the site will send you a comprehensive safe travel checklist to fill out along with your packing list to prepare you to have a secure trip.

And finally, almost every expert I heard from gave this sage advice: Don’t do drugs or get really drunk. Thanks, Mom. I’ll call or text to let you know I’ve arrived safely.

This article originally appeared on Inc.com.

Ten Tips To A Terrific Staycation

Ten Tips To A Terrific Staycation

This week the weather turned a corner and the looming summer season hit me straight in the face – and left me wishing for a summer vacation spent lazily lying on sandy beaches sipping drinks with orchids floating in them. But like many Americans, frugality prevails this year, so visits to friends and family and long, leisurely weekends at home (drinking white wine spritzers – sans the corsage) are the order of the day. Not a bad thing, just different.

So if the stiff price of gas has got you down, and the desire to simplify has you got you fired up – be it ever so humble there’s no place like home. Enter the staycation – a vacation you take in your own home town. This ongoing trend has would be world travelers seeking relaxation and adventure from the comfort of their own couches. For a successful stay at home family vacation try these ten top tips:

Create a budget: Although you won’t have the expenses of leaving home, you will want to consider how much your staycation activities will cost. If you plan on eating out more, spending one or two nights at a local hotel or starting a project that requires investment – plan a budget.

Avoid errand creep: Don’t end up doing so many things around the house – replacing the light bulbs, cleaning out the garage, fixing the front door etc. – that you miss taking the time you need to just chill. If you have a few closets you really want to clean out, schedule a specific day and time to do them.

Become a tourist in your own town: You know that old joke about how most New Yorker’s have never been to the Statue of Liberty? Buy a guidebook on the area you live in and read through it for things you might like to do. Take a guided tour, helicopter ride, boat trip, see the zoo etc.

Keep friends at bay: Unless you want a major part of your staycation to be visiting with friends, don’t over schedule the lunches, dinners and get togethers. You want the space (and freedom) to be spontaneous.

Visit a day spa: Just because you’re not staying at a five star resort with a world-class spa, does not mean you can’t get scrubbed, rubbed and pampered! Check out a day spa in your area and set up a treatment or two. If you really want to splurge go for broke and do a full-day package.

Set goals: Think about what you want to accomplish on your staycation. Is there a book you have been dying to read? A whole slew of movies you want to catch up on? Romantic time you want to spend with your spouse? Take the kids to the new exhibit at the zoo? Time to think through your long-term goals? Naps? Whatever objectives you set, let them dictate the organization of your time off.

Block out check in times: Just as you would with a regular get away vacation, set up specific times when you are going to check in with the office and stick to them. Don’t let the proximity of work, lure you away from your stay-at-home holiday.

Stay overnight: If your staycation is a week or longer consider spending one or two nights at a local hotel. Just getting away for a night, can feel exotic and fun. Not to mention romantic if you go with your significant other.

Do something different: One of the advantages of a traditional vacation is that it puts you in a different environment, where the opportunity to try something new is greater than usual. There is no reason you can’t apply this same idea to your staycation. Check out your local scene for activities that you might not normally do but sound fun.

Do nothing:
Never underestimate the value of waking up when you want to and doing whatever you want, whenever you want, all day long. Don’t feel like your staycation has to produce any tangible results – it doesn’t. Just getting renewed and refreshed is reward enough.

Why Your Personal Brand Wants You to Take Time Off

Why Your Personal Brand Wants You to Take Time Off

I recently returned from a conference that was wall to wall with smart, successful, type A movers and shakers from the worlds of government, academia, business, entertainment, the arts, sciences, publishing and social profit.

Being around all those high-powered brains made me mindful about how our personal brands — be we small business owners or award-winning academics — can benefit from vacations and time away to rest and renew, regroup and redefine who we are today.

These folks — as busy and in demand as they are — were for the most part not checking their iPhones under the table every 10 seconds during a speaker’s talk, and many were essentially off the technology grid for a few days. In short, they gave themselves the luxury to step back and think about the way they and others walk through the world, personal brand and all. In contrast, consider two studies out this June. The first from Career Builder.com determined that:

  • Three in ten workers contact work during their vacations.
  • Twenty-three percent of workers reported at least once having to skip the family vacation to work, while their family went without them.
  • Thirty-seven percent of employers say they expect their employees to check with work while on vacation.

And even for those who manage to wrangle some time away, how they spend it can have an impact on the degree to which they refresh.

Another survey by Cambria Suites reported that of all the respondents who have ever taken a family summer vacation, 65 percent of Americans say there is “nothing better.” However, 24 percent say they usually need a vacation upon returning from the group getaway.

This may be in part because that same research showed that kids ask their parents “Are we there yet?” an average of nine to 13 times during a seven-day trip, depending on the ages of the kids involved. As enriching as these family trips are, they can sometimes occupy our brains in ways that may not fully allow us to contemplate the bigger pictures of our lives.

Here are a few good reasons why taking the right type of time away might just be the best thing that ever happened to your personal brand.

Keep your personal brand fresh. Exposure to ideas, activities and other people outside your usual circle can stimulate your brain, give you perspective and provide you with an opportunity to learn and grow. Even activities that may seem irrelevant to your personal brand have the potential to grow it by broadening your horizons. In addition to being content worthy of tweets, blogs and other social media, those stretches make great small-talk starters, jumping-off points for deeper conversations, and fodder for presenting new ideas. Some ways to start the conversation include:

  • I learned something interesting about myself this past week.
  • I want to tell you about a new experience I recently had.
  • I met a really fascinating person recently, and they taught me…
  • I had an idea while away that I wanted to share with you.

For example: Last December, my husband and I tried out snuba diving on the island of Lanai in Hawaii. I’ve never been able to scuba dive since my claustrophobia has always gotten the better of me. But snuba diving involves shallower dives using all the usual equipment required for breathing under water, but places the air tank, connected via a long tube, on a float on the water above. The whole experience left me exhilarated, empowered and with a great metaphor to use with my marketing and branding clients about the power of finding options that utilize the best of both worlds.

Play with your personal brand. Time away, whether it’s for a conference or a cruise, invariably brings us face-to-face with new people who will predictably ask us, “What do you do?” Since we presumably never have to see these people again, it’s the perfect opportunity to try out a new way of talking about or expressing our personal brand. The ability to experiment with new ways of being — with very little at stake — can get us out of the rut of who we think we are and allow us the freedom to explore another side to our personal brands.

Learn from how others present their personal brand. In the same way that relative strangers can provide you with a place to try out your personal brand, being around others lets you learn from how they present themselves. Imitation is the highest form of flattery, so listen for how others share their ideas, present their accomplishments, or describe their passions. If you see something that inspires you and feels authentic, incorporate it at will.

One of my recent lessons in this area came from listening to the humble way a much-lauded and awarded particle physics scientist spoke about the power of teams — not individuals — to create breakthrough results.

So the next time you sit down to plan a weekend away or a summer vacation, remember: it’s not just your body and brain you’re rejuvenating but also your personal brand — it deserves a holiday too.

Karen Leland is a best-selling author, marketing and branding consultant and president of Sterling Marketing Group where she helps businesses implement modern marketing, hone their business and personal brands, and create winning content. For questions or comments, please contact her at karen@sterlingmarketinggroup.com.