168-Hour Chronicle

168-Hour Chronicle

LiQ_Mag_Cover_July2014This article first appeared in the July 2014 issue of Life in Québec Magazine.
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Five tips for the best vacation of your life

By Erik Plourde

Soon, thousands of people will temporarily leave their professional activities for a few days of rest.

Whether you’re going abroad or staying at home, you probably want to have the best vacation of your lives. The good news: it’s possible!

Beach_drinkIndeed, there exists one resource equally distributed among all humans: the time we have. Whether you are one of the world’s great people, or the smallest of the small, you have exactly 168 hours per week.  It is the way you use this time that makes the difference.

Here are a few tips which will allow you to make the most of those few days that pass so quickly.

1. Determine now the goal of your vacation

Do you want to travel? Rest poolside? Visit family? Build the second floor to your dream home?  Initiate your children to wilderness camping?

Knowing exactly what the mainspring for this short period will be allows you to channel your preparation time in the right direction. It’s also the first step leading to anticipation of the good times to come.

2. Plan the activities that will be most pleasing at least two months in advance

Indeed, anticipation of pleasure to come generates a sense of pleasure in itself. Who, before a long-desired trip abroad, hasn’t caught themselves dreaming of landscapes to come? This anticipation transforms into positive feelings. This can even give you the energy necessary to get through the last few weeks of hard labour.

Planning a vacation is a particularly popular activity in my family. The general guidelines of the “vacation project”, such as trips or visits to far-away family, are determined and grouped by my wife and myself.

Subsequently, we have a few “brainstorming” sessions with our two sons, aged 5 and 7. They choose activities they’d like to do, then draw them on signs. This has the effect of kicking off positive anticipation regarding amusing activities to come. Our vacation becomes the primary theme of dozens of drawings which decorate the refrigerator.

LiQ_Mag_Abonnez-vous3. Limit boring projects

Unless repainting your house is, for you, a relaxing activity, don’t let major work ruin your precious relaxation time. If this is unavoidable, plan to get it out of the way at the beginning of your vacation and not at the end. Finishing your vacation with time dedicated to yourself will contribute to a better sense of relaxation.

If you can’t avoid work that needs your full-time presence, this could perhaps be done at another time of the year. Use of a calendar of boring work allows you to program these for more appropriate moments. Some people break apart maintenance work into simple tasks spread over weeknights, so as to keep time available on weekends.

Thus, an activity like fall yard work can become a series of short activities: putting away patio furniture, raking leaves, spreading fertilizer, and tying bushes. These tasks can be done during the week, which frees the weekend for family activities.

4. Establish a vacation routine

Humans are creatures of habit. By establishing a certain daily routine fundamentally different from your usual routine, you’re forcing yourself to break with your work life. That’s why trips abroad generally allow for a deep disconnect with regular life.

However, be wary not to overload your schedule. If you’re a high-performing person, used to accomplishing 60 hours of work in 40, you’ll tend to plan your vacation the same way. Your entourage might have difficulty following!

The golden rule is to limit major activities (outings, etc.) to one per day. At my house, vacation mornings are dedicated to me-time. Breakfast is taken in a calm and relaxed setting, and the children play with their toys. Mom and Dad are often on social media or the web, latté in hand. This is also when Dad writes.

This habit contrasts with work mornings, when everything is down to the minute and each is under a certain amount of pressure.

This free time, where each enjoys the present moment, makes it possible to slow down and enjoy life.  It predisposes us to a relaxed pace for the rest of the day.

Then, around 9am, formal activities begin. Everything that requires the children to expend a lot of energy happens between 9am and 1pm. This avoids many of the sudden mood shifts related to fatigue.
While establishing your routine, always plan your travel time. If you wish to go for a hike, double the transport time required between your house and the hiking trail. Why? Humans systematically underestimate the time anything takes. You only want to go for a hike – not a drive!

5. Temporarily cut contact with your professional activities

Do I really need to say this? A single call from the office, and your efforts to let go fall to pieces.  Often, calls from work can also become a source of conflict to a vacationing couple. Unplug your voicemail and leave your cell phones at work.

If you’re a boss, business owner, or if you’re simply the only person who can accomplish certain tasks, it would be prudent to plan for replacement. This “what to do or who to call in my absence” plan should allow your company to survive until your return.

Furthermore, elaborating such a plan will allow you to leave with a clear mind, and if you’re naturally worried, will avoid that nagging feeling.

But, above all, take the time to savour each moment.

Have a great vacation!

About Author

Erik Plourde

Erik Plourde has worked in the health sector for 17 years. He grew quickly interested in time management and has written on the subject for several years. His website: pasdetempsaperdre.net, presents original content that intends to help all those who “don’t have time”. You can also follow him on twitter: @ErikPlourde

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