How Busy Entrepreneurs Like Zuckerberg and Bezos Get the Most out of Their Vacations
Entrepreneurs rarely have time to travel because they find it difficult, if not impossible, to leave their work behind. A business, after all, can be like a newborn, requiring constant care and attention.
In a similar vein, there is often a major opportunity cost associated with vacationing, because it can mean turning down clients or work and losing money while you're away.
Yet, there's a caveat here: While it may be hard to imagine taking time off as being productive, vacations can actually be beneficial for entrepreneurs. So, get yourself onto Expedia.com or whatever travel site you choose -- without guilt.
But before you make a major investment into a vacation, in terms of time and money, earn about the culture of the place you're looking to visit. This can help you make better decisions about your trip and feel, at the end of your journey, as though you've had a truly productive time away. Here are some big-name and not-as-big-name entrepreneurs who made the most of their time away -- something you can do, too:
Mark Zuckerberg: Get to know the locals and their problems.
Culture varies from region to region. But, inevitably, there is something new you can learn from every person you meet.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan vacationed in northern Maine in May. While there, the couple hiked the Appalachian Trail and spent time talking to residents, including former mill workers, small business owners, teachers, a librarian and a trucker at a restaurant in Bangor. Given their fast-changing economy, many of these locals expressed concern for the area's lack of entrepreneurial spirit, but said they remained committed to rebuilding their community.
Getting to know locals can help you understand the bigger issues at hand, and introduce you to different ways of thinking. You may even come across opportunities to help, partner up or make a difference in some way. In this way, even a vacation can be a mentally stimulating growth opportunity.
While many people tend to shut down and take it easy while traveling, Zuckerberg showed us that a vacation with a purpose can sometimes be just as rejuvenating as the alternative.
Jeff Bezos: See the sights. Be laid back. Be a tourist.
On vacation, many people tend to stay put, because they're staying at a hotel or resort, or just stick to the main tourist attractions.
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, on the other hand, looked like any other tourist while on vacation in Italy in May. He and wife MacKenzie were seen visiting Rome's Campo de' Fiori market, and posing with his parents, brothers and their wives in front of the Piazza Navona fountains -- as they enjoyed time with family.
We can learn from Bezos's example that adopting a laid-back and adventurous mindset on vacation can help you find joy in the ordinary, and even stretch your comfort zone. Without the need to be anywhere or do anything, you can truly soak up the sights and learn about the place you're visiting. You can get engrossed in the local culture and experience locals' architecture, food and art.
By doing this, you can take a productive break from the worries of the office. Ultimately, you'll end up more prepared to take on challenges once you've stepped away from them for a bit.
Sean Kelly: Be intentional about your next trip.
Sean Kelly, CEO of SnackNation, described in Entrepreneur how he takes a non-negotiable international trip with his wife every year. At the time he wrote his piece, he'd returned from a trip to Spain, where he and his wife enjoyed the Saint Sebastian festival in Barcelona and the museums of Madrid.
The executive also wrote about how many entrepreneurs fail to uncover the true value of vacations, and how that's kind of sad: "Vacations can be one of the best tools to gain new perspectives, recharge the mind and body, make lasting connections and spur your creativity," Kelly wrote.
Alternatively, he suggested leaving for your next rip with an intention. A change of scenery offers you the opportunity to see things from a new perspective. And this can lead to inspiration and new, innovative ideas.
Think about the open loops that exist in your work. What problems are you trying to solve? What areas of your business are you trying to make more efficient? Is there a revenue opportunity you haven't yet fully tapped?
While on vacation, you won't be in the daily grind of trying to solve this problem. So leave your subconscious mind to work on it while you're enjoying yourself; that kind of passive attention can bring meaningful solutions to the surface.
Intentionality, in fact, should factor into every part of your trip, from deciding on a location to keeping distractions to a minimum. Bon voyage!
Jason Parks: Let your team take over the important stuff.
You won't have much of an opportunity to unplug and refresh on vacation if your mind is constantly turning over pending issues, or your next big task at work.
Jason Parks is the CEO of The Media Captain. He says he isn't a fan of vacationing because he can't tend to urgent business matters while away. He wrote in Entrepreneur that he's found that eliminating distractions is the only true way to enjoy himself while on vacation. While in Miami with his girlfriend, Parks said he started checking emails and calling his office on Monday morning.
But his girlfriend had made plans for the day. Ultimately, he decided to go along with her wishes, and ended up spending most of the day disconnected from his business. He found it incredibly rewarding.
Parks's story demonstrates the importance of having a team. If you have a team, you can rely on to run your business, things can continue to run smoothly while you're away.
But if you're going on vacation at all, as Parks noted, it's best to get rid of unnecessary distractions and remain intentional about taking the time to enjoy yourself. So, plan some strategies for a successful trip to ensure the best results possible.
Josh Pigford: Disconect from the mental grind.
Most entrepreneurs naturally turn problems and potential solutions over in their heads 24/7. This makes sense, given the sense of responsibility entrepreneurial CEOs tend to feel for the success of their company. However, we know that stepping away from a problem to gain new perspective can often be more productive than constantly turning it over in your mind.
Josh Pigford, CEO of Baremetrics, shares this idea that unplugging your mind while on vacation is one of the most productive things you can do for your company. As Pigford told me following a sojurn to the beautiful town of Whistler, in British Columbia, "Vacation for me is about completely disconnecting my mind from anything work or even business related. My brain constantly churns on new ideas, new ways to handle customer problems, different ways to improve our team, and so much more. Vacation is about stopping that cycle to give my brain a rest. Doing this allows me to come back to work with a fresh mind and new perspective on those problems I'd previously been chewing on for days, weeks or even months."
While on vacation, you won't be in the daily grind of trying to solve a problem. So leave your subconscious mind to work on it while you're enjoying yourself; that kind of passive attention can bring meaningful solutions to the surface.
It's not uncommon for entrepreneurs to take to the road or the skies with a laptop. But, can you truly call a change of scenery a vacation if your daily commitments remain the same? Will you feel refreshed and restored after you return from what turns out to have been a remote working excursion? Are you serving your team if you come back more stressed than when you left?
The message here is, it's important to remember what vacations are actually for. They're an opportunity to get away, rest, disconnect from your everyday responsibilities and return in a better state of mind. Generating ideas is a breeze when you aren't constantly pushing yourself to try to come up with more. Your mind will have the chance to organize itself so that you can focus more on what needs to get done after you come back.
Properly planned, vacations can make you more effective as an entrepreneur. Use the above tips to get the most out of your getaways, even if they're short.