Agile and the Art of Holidays

Agile Holidays cheese and wineAs you would know by now, I am passionate about the principles and concepts of Agile, and how applying them to your projects or change initiatives can get great results. It’s amazing what happens when you apply them to life too. We have a Kanban board at home and track our progress visually, checking in regularly. It just makes sense to us. We realised this week that we also apply this principle to our holidays.

Holidays – an iterative approach

I remember when I was young, and the summer holidays seemed to last forever. They were long, warm and filled with the fun of visiting our neighbours’ pool, barbecues and Christmas. Reluctantly we would return to school, already anxiously awaiting the next summer holiday, with a few short breaks throughout the year (that were also anxiously awaited). This continued into University before the real world hit. Four precious weeks a year that were generally all taken together at some point where the first week was spent recovering, the next two weeks were spent relaxing or sight seeing, and the last week was spent getting ready to go back to work. It was then a long 9-10 months before the next long awaiting holiday.

Why does it have to be this way for so many people? For the last few years my husband and I have implemented the concepts of agility into our holiday planning. Instead of taking a big break at a point in time, we planned short breaks throughout the year. A week (or a long weekend) every quarter to rest and rejuvenate. It means there is always something to look forward to that is not too far away. Having something on the horizon is both exciting and comforting. A reward for our hard work we don’t have to wait too long for. It means we don’t crave a long holiday at the end of the year as we are enjoying every moment of the year we are in.

The Research behind Short Breaks

Research has shown that even short walks, swims, time with friends or trips to the day spa etc. can go a long way in resting our brains from the constant stress of every day life. We all know those people (and perhaps we are these people) who work hard all year and hang out for that one, big holiday at the end of the year. They will travel and sight see and have a fantastic time, then come home needing a rest, but are back at work doing it all over again until the next year. Every day of annual leave is saved for that amazing holiday at the end of the year. The trip of a life time. I get that. I once took eight months off between jobs and moved countries, traveled through South America, the Antarctic peninsula and New Zealand. By the end of the eight months I was ready to go back to work. I was refreshed, I was motivated, I was excited, and to be honest, I needed the money. But when I think back on how refreshed I was and compare that to how refreshed I am at the end of a short week off or a long weekend, there isn’t that much of a difference. After eight months I wasn’t thirty two times happier and relaxed as I am after a week. Longer breaks are great, but have diminishing returns.

The Downside of a Long Break

Long holidays are not all they are cracked up to be. Some disadvantages include:

  • You forget all your work passwords (although, to be transparent, I can achieve this after a week off…)
  • You are away from the office and miss big changes
  • You lose the ability to influence
  • You miss out on the office camaraderie and fun
  • People forget about you
  • You don’t get another holiday for another eleven months

All these are pretty hypothetical and can be surmounted by different strategies, except for the last one. Eleven months is a long time.

The Upside of a short ‘agile’ break

Some of the advantages I have discovered form taking short breaks often include:

  • Constant ‘top ups’ mean you are always refreshed throughout the year
  • More opportunities to travel to new places – a different location every time (or go back to your favourite places over and over)
  • Opportunties to travel at non-peak times
  • When you’re only away for a short time, you don’t miss much and can easily pick up where you left off
  • It aligns with the research that even short periods of time to refresh do much for your brain’s recovery.

We all work hard, and our brains get depleted of energy, and because they run on glucose, it is a fast burning energy. Fast burning energy needs to be replenished more often. We’ve all seen some pretty bad decisions be made in the weeks leading up to Christmas holidays. When we get tired and stressed, we literally get dumber. Our IQs drop and we do things we would never do if our brains were replenished of energy.

Take Action

So do yourself a favour. Adopt an agile approach to holidays. Holiday often and for short periods. Check in regularly and ensure your brain is topped up with energy so you are always performing at your very best. This will result in fewer mistakes and great results.

How do you think this agile approach to holidays will work for you? Feel free to commend and share below!



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About Emma Sharrock

Emma is the author of The Agile Project Manager: Thrive in Change with Agile. An experienced change leader, Emma is passionate about working with people to facilitate successful change. Emma utilises Agile techniques, coupled with the Agile mindset to coach leaders and teams to achieve their business goals.