Verdery Kerr, a friend and former member of the Christ Church ministry team, once said to me that dealing with the phases of life is “adult stuff, it is not easy.” I am reminded of this as I gain perspective from the challenges I have faced with a sibling passing away and parents navigating their 80s.

I’m always looking to gain perspective, even from my family vacations. Looking back into summer, it’s nice to bask in the sunny memories. However, true to my form, I try to learn my lessons from life’s experiences, even when it comes to family time.

I have this process where I ask the family the following: what was great about this experience of our summer vacation? Then I follow up with, what didn’t work? And, knowing what we do now, what would do differently? Then ask what steps we can put in place to make these things happen in the future. I discovered this summer some great ways to hack my summer vacation and make it more meaningful with family, and more productive for my work.

As an entrepreneur, there is always the risk to burn the candle at both ends.

I’ve been a Strategic Coach participating with coach Dan Sullivan for nearly 15 years, and one of first things he teaches you is how to prioritize your time and how to take true vacations.

Dan stresses the following: You have to take vacation in 24-hour increments. You’re either at work for that 24 hours or you are on vacation. There’s no checking emails first thing in the morning and thinking you’re going to spend rest of the day on vacation without thinking about work. Funny how brain works in ways like this.

Dan also points out it takes a few days to disconnect mentally. As I get older it really takes me three days of no emails and no connection with work before I feel like I’m totally separated from the office. The Europeans probably have it right when they take three-week-long sabbaticals.

Here are my favorite tips to hacking my summer vacation:

  • If you’re going to be away for extended period, pick a day or days you will be available and make everyone at the office aware of this schedule. (Letting them know that, of course, if it’s an emergency they can call you directly.)

As an example, I always use Tuesdays. On Tuesday, I’ll roll out of bed. Sometimes I won’t get out of my PJs. There was an office I’d set up in the house we were staying at in Michigan. I had all my conference calls set up. Emails were ready to go. And I worked for a full 24 hours of work. I got an enormous amount of things done.

  • Don’t mix. As Dan preaches, you’re either working that 24 hours or on vacation, but don’t try to mix the two because the quick conference call first thing in the morning will turn into follow up emails at 3 p.m. and everything else in between becomes fret and worry. I said this earlier and it bears repeating. It is that important.
  • Be very intentional with your calendar. Schedule and use a family calendar during those vacation days. Know what you enjoy doing during that time. What are the activities that give you and your family energy or relaxation, or whatever you are searching for.

On my days off, I love to go fast on my bike and get a lot of exercise. I love to rest and sleep as late as I can and read. And I love to spend time with family and friends. To give an example about one of my closest friends, who happens to be married to my sister in-law, Fairfax is passionate about food. On his free days, he cooks. He spends time in the garden and has friends over to enjoy it. That gives him energy. He thrives in it and if you know Fairfax, you know that no one loves to party more than he does.

I’ve had a lot of good results using these tactics. One big surprise was how I’m immediately forced to delegate things to others in the office and when I return it’s sometimes surprising to see how people have picked up the ball and run with it. That activity I used to do is now forever delegated.

My clients also get familiar working with others inside the office and start to see for themselves how talented my team is. It builds trust and enhances overall productivity.

Having a great vacation you can return really rejuvenated and you can see things more clearly. I become aware of things I procrastinating on. Action items become more clear and the response more creative. You have a lot more energy.

There’s something magical about 24 hours. You wake-up in the morning and know that this is either a work day or a free day. But there is nothing novel in this idea. And no one can say that I take too much time off and I am not ambitious. Afterall, God took a full 24 hours off on the Sabbath, and no one questions His work ethic!