Embracing “rest as resistance” to get the most out of your vacation

By Danielle Rocheleau

Time flies, and so do our summers. We have all been running a marathon for the last few years. We’re trying to keep up with an unrealistic pace, with little end in sight.

In recent conversations, when I ask “are you taking any time off this summer?” I’m hearing quite a few “maybes”, “nothing planned yet,” or “hopefully a couple of days before September.”

As a non-profit leader, your dedication to your organization is unwavering, but even superheroes like you need a break.

Taking time for rest is not only essential for your mental and physical well-being, but it also ensures that you’ll be a rejuvenated leader returning to lead your team with renewed energy and focus. It’s a win for everyone.

Easier said than done, though. With deadlines, service pressures, and a never-ending list of things to do, it can be daunting to think about stepping away, or actually disconnecting from email and phone while you are away. We know that preparing for and coming back from time off can be a source of stress for you and your team.

In this post, I offer some practical ideas and reminders for how you can make the most of your time off while reducing stress and pressure for everyone involved.

Rest as resistance

If you’re questioning whether or not you can — or should — take some time away, you may want to consider the concept of “rest is resistance”, which questions today’s relentless productivity mindset. If this is a new concept for you, it’s a good one to keep in mind, especially when purpose-driven leaders, such as yourself, need a reason to take time off (in addition to their wellbeing).

The “rest is resistance” philosophy emphasizes the value of self-care as a radical act of defiance against an exploitative system, highlighting the transformative potential of rest as a means to reclaim autonomy over one’s time and energy.

According to Tricia Hersey, one of the movement’s leading proponents, “Rest, in its simplest form, becomes an act of resistance and a reclaiming of power because it asserts our most basic humanity. We are enough.”

If you want to learn more, be sure to check out Tricia Hersey’s website.

Getting the most out of your vacation

Before vacation

  • Book time off well in advance: You don’t need to know what your plans will be. Promise yourself you will take time off and put it in your calendar. Protect that time; it’s valuable! You might need to shift that time around as you get closer to the dates, and if this happens DON’T delete it, just move it. Protecting space in your calendar will make sure nothing else gets booked during that period, and will increase your chances of actually taking your vacation.
  • Delegate with confidence: Trust your team members and delegate responsibilities well in advance. Empower them to make decisions in your absence and provide clear guidelines to keep things running smoothly.
  • Set clear expectations: Communicate with your team about your vacation plans and discuss what they can expect during your absence. Clearly define their roles and responsibilities to avoid confusion.
  • Plan for emergencies: While you hope for a seamless vacation, unexpected issues may arise. Ensure that your team is aware of contingency plans and emergency contacts if they need assistance.
  • List your ‘to dos’: Include everything you hope to accomplish before you go, as well as the things that will need immediate attention when you return. Then, choose the top few items that absolutely need to be done before you go, and accept that the others can wait.
  • Wrap up pending tasks: Prioritize and complete urgent tasks before leaving, reducing the pressure of unfinished work hanging over your vacation.
  • Turn on vacation mode: Set an autoresponder email and voicemail message, politely stating your unavailability and who to contact in your absence.

During vacation

  • Disconnect (as much as possible): Allow yourself the space to unwind by limiting your email and work-related communications. Instead, focus on spending quality time on your own or with loved ones and enjoying your vacation fully.
  • Engage in activities you love: Engaging in hobbies and activities that relax and energize you can help you return from time away with a fresh perspective and renewed enthusiasm. Maybe it’s even binge-watching that TV show you’ve been meaning to dive into. Remember: your worth is not measured by your productivity – sometimes, doing nothing is everything.
  • Trust your team: Resist the urge to constantly check in on work. Trust that your team has everything under control and will reach out if they need to.

Returning from vacation

  • Ease back into work: You already know you’re going to have some things to catch up on during your first day(s) back from vacation. Anticipating this, try to protect that time as much as you can by limiting non-urgent meetings or booking them for later in the week, so that you have time to catch up on emails and get back into the groove.
  • Reconnect with your team: Gather your team to share highlights of your vacation and discuss any important updates. Allow them to voice any concerns or issues they faced during your absence. Ideally, this would be scheduled after you have had some time for focused desk work, and you are really ready to reengage.
  • Prioritize and plan: Assess the tasks at hand and prioritize them. Collaborate with your team to plan the upcoming weeks efficiently.
  • Reflect on the experience: Take a moment to reflect on the positive impact of your vacation on your well-being and productivity. Encourage team members to take their time off as well.
  • Implement positive changes: Sometimes the space away from work will illuminate something new. If you have any creative ideas or identify challenges or bottlenecks during your vacation, work with your team to further explore and to put them into action. The solutions often come to you when you disconnect.

Not every idea shared here will work for everyone.

Take a moment and choose one or two that you think might help you make the most of your vacation, reduce stress, and create a supportive environment for your team.

Remember, your well-being as a leader is crucial to the success of your organization, and a well-rested and balanced leader is ultimately more effective and inspiring. So, go ahead and embrace that vacation, and return with refreshed enthusiasm to continue making a difference in the world.