Vacation Cultivates Creativity

Since my last newsletter when I wrote about our trip backpacking in Arizona, I’ve been updating my gear. And while I’m not typically a person who advocates for stuff to buy- I want to share with you my latest purchase- Sierra Designs Mobile Mummy. (They’re not paying me anything to mention it). It has blown me out of the water- they went totally out of the box and changed the design of a sleeping bag, giving it some amazing features. After decades of everyone thinking about sleeping bags the same way, somebody came up with radical thoughts—arm openings, and a zipper at the bottom so you can walk in it! I get cold easily, so I love staying in my bag. Not only is it warm and light, but I can read in it, in the morning I can crawl out of the tent with it and have a cup of coffee –and, as you can see, it makes me look like a supermodel! J So it’s got me thinking about how we get ourselves to think out of the box. The good news is that vacation and new environments are GOOD for our creativity. Time to get out of the office!

You might be wondering how you could create something innovative like the Mobile Mummy sleeping bag. If so, the answer might be as easy as taking a vacation. This was the case for entrepreneur, Kevin Systrom, the founder of Instagram, one of the most popular social media networks. He came up with the idea while on vacation on a beach in California. According to a survey of 1000 small business owners in the UK, one in five startup ideas come to entrepreneurs while on vacation. Yet in the United States, there is a cultural belief that taking time away may be an indicator of lack of work commitment. In fact, the United States averages only 10 days of paid vacation annually, while Europe averages 20 days. And to top it off, 40% of American workers will leave paid vacation days unused. There’s even a new name for it: “Work Martyr Complex”.

Yet the data shows that taking time off is good for us. A 2006 internal study by Ernst and Young showed that for every additional 10 hours of vacation an employee took, his or her performance ratings went up by 8 percent — nearly 1 percent per day of vacation. This means that all that unused vacation time is a lost opportunity in productivity. The study also found that employees who took regular vacations were less likely to leave the company. In addition, there is a huge bonus on health– stress and anxiety levels go down, sleep goes up, heart function and blood pressure begin to go back to normal, and moods improve. Not bad for hanging out by the pool or seeing some new sites.

We’re human beings, not machines, and we go through cycles of being productive and recharging. So go ahead and recharge. New ideas are better cultivated when we’re not stressed and our minds are free to wander. I’m getting my bags packed now (actually for Turkey and Lithuania) and throwing in a notepad for some creative inspiration.

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