Saturday, August 23, 2008


I'm on vacation. It's the first time that I've been 100% certain that
I've been on vacation in almost two years. I have a bizarre schedule
with lots of free time, but the week I'm in the middle of is the first
time in a while that I've set out to myself not to work. It's not so
much as a personal promise as a personal allowance.

A friend of mine recently had to fight his boss far in advance to get
a two-day vacation, and he was required to bring his work cell phone
and his work computer and be available during those two days. We had
an interesting chat about vacations. I posited that a vacation of
fewer than 7 days is worthless; a vacation of two lengths minimum is
necessary in order actually to relax and clear your mind; but a
vacation of longer than two weeks is dangerous, because you may not
return to work, unless you really like it. (Maybe the test of whether
you like your job is whether you can return to it after a vacation of
3-4 weeks. Management idea: counter the conventional wisdom of
encouraging your staff to take vacation in drips and drabs and instead
send them off on 3 week vacations.)

Reasons to go on vacation (each reason creates a different goal for
your vacation or type of vacation). They are in order of increasing
level of ambition for a vacation:
+ work in a relaxed environment
+ catch up on sleep
+ do anything but your job
+ spend time with people you love
+ have new experiences
+ have lots of fun
+ exist in a mental state that is free from work
+ purge your body and soul
+ achieve some form of enlightenment that is impossible in your daily life

I'm confused by people who appear to think that it's cool to be too
busy to go on vacation. It's certainly good to be vital to your
organization, but if you have authority you can set vacation time for
yourself; if you have competence you can set up the ship to run in
your absence; and if you are wise then wouldn't you want to spend some
time relaxing, thinking, getting perspective? Bill Gates and his
erstwhile trips into the woods are probably the best example of the
latter point.

The main reason I've gone so long without a vacation to date is that
I've been motivated not to go on vacation - I've kept working. But
this summer I ran out of gas on Linkspank and needed a vacation, and
strategically speaking it has been a sensible breaking point. (New
things coming in September, including an update on the site.)

I think vacations are good for Planning. Sometimes I think of humans
as having two work modes, Planning and Executing. Executing is like
jogging or walking - it's semi-involuntary. The more voluntary action
is required of jogging or walking, the more exhausting it becomes, to
a point of quickly becoming unfeasible. Such with execution: the
planning has to be laid out in advance. Good for vacations, when
you're relaxed, you can think, and you are reclining. :-)