Lessons From Vacation in Italy: Unplugging

 I have an annual day called “Innergize Day.”  It encourages people to take one day a year for themselves to do something they enjoy or rarely take time to do.  The goal is that you will take a day a year, a day a month, and a few hours a week for yourself.

A few years ago, I attended a panel discussion comprised of women at the level of CEO.  They talked about the importance of learning to unplug; they were reminded of this when their children started commenting about them conducting business on the phone while on vacation. 

Lastly, there was an AT&T commercial where the child asked the mother when they could become a meeting.  The commercial, of course, was about being able to work from anywhere when you have your phone.  The message I took away was the child was asking for more time with the mother.   

 I recently spent 11 days in Italy.  It was beautiful. The food and drink was amazing.  I love Italy and would live there if I could.  What I learned from this trip is that people really do have trouble unplugging.  There were 13 of us as a group on this trip.  I only used my phone to take pictures, and I didn’t take that many.  I took magazines to read and my journal to write and reflect.  Several people had their phones and tablets.  They were taking pictures nonstop, and at dinner they would be on their phones and tablets uploading pictures to Facebook and sending pictures to family and friends.  Some even took calls at the dinner table. I believe they missed experiencing the beauty of the moment.  They missed out on truly tasting the savor of the many courses of authentic Italian food.  And they missed out on interacting and getting to know others.  Now, I’m an introvert but at dinner I had conversation with the people sitting around me. 

 After the first day, I didn’t miss being on Facebook or texting.  I enjoyed being in the moment.  We stayed at a bed and breakfast on the second leg of our trip. The hotel had a room that had a fireplace in it.  When we returned from our day’s excursion, I would sit in the room and just enjoy the fireplace.  Sometimes I would read a magazine or journal, but most of the time I was still and just looked at the fire. 

 Europeans take vacation every year and they do not work during their vacation.  They enjoy their vacation, family and friends.  We, as Americans, can learn from this.  I remember on  one of my corporate jobs my message said I was on vacation and would not be checking for messages.  People left me a message saying a novel idea and then they left me the business message.  They actually thought I was still going to check my messages even though I said I was on vacation and would not check for messages.  Why?  Because in that corporate culture people worked during their vacation.    At another panel I attended, a male CEO said he was in Italy and his daughter looked at him when he took a call and said, “Really, Dad?  You are going to take a call while we are here in Italy?”  She shook her head and walked away.  He didn’t take any more calls the rest of the trip.

 Whether you have family or not, you need to unplug.  You need to enjoy vacation, time at home, lunch (without working).  If a business cannot run without you for 30 minutes, two days or a week, what does that say about the people you have chosen to be part of your business or what does it say about your leadership style?

 I encourage you and challenge you to try to unplug.  Start small.  Take lunch and do not have your phone.  See what happens. 

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