Tricking my brain into taking a holiday

Having recently come back from a two week holiday, one of the things that took a lot of very conscious effort was "tricking" my brain into taking a break. 

I was born to two very intellectually gifted parents, which is a great blessing. It's also a gift that keeps on giving, whether I like it or not.........learning how to manage it has been a large part of my story. 

In our high tech world we're constantly told to disconnect, to "digital detox", to give ourselves some downtime. There's a reason for that - while my brain isn't a muscle, it needs recovery time just like any other part of my body after a period of intense activity and our 24/7 cycle gets in the way of that. 

The other complication as a freelancer is it's really hard to disconnect for the purely practical reasons it's just you. There's no support crew you can rely on in the same way you can as an employee. 

The final spanner in the works is my line of work involves capital raising for startups. It is a process which does not lend itself to good project management and milestone planning. The deal takes as long as it takes and if the deal doesn't happen, the company dies. I lose control of my calendar, a lot. It also makes planning a full disconnecting vacation virtually impossible, except at Christmas. 

Hence this time around I took a different approach:

  • I set expectations months ago I had booked this trip in and if a capital raising deal was still in the works at the time, I would be contactable and online. Sure enough, one of my clients was working through the final stages of a transaction while I was away. The technology now allows me to be contactable from anywhere, I accepted that was part of being able to book a trip in the first place. 
  • I went to see my friends in California. What, you say? I headed to Silicon Valley (I work in the tech sector) on holidays, in the middle of one of the most toxic political campaigns any of us can remember? Yes, I am weird. Quoting Robin Williams: "You're only given a little spark of madness, you musn't lose it". 

My friends happen to live there, I went to visit. They were people I'd not seen in a long time & it was an incredibly simple trip to plan (book plane ticket, all planning done!). 

  • I setup the technology to serve me, rather than pin me down. On the way over, I turned off all the mobile data feeds for everything I didn't need, turned off all notifications and got really good at finding wi-fi. I'd check in once a day to make sure the world wasn't melting while I wasn't looking. 
  • I didn't turn the TV on for two weeks and pretty much ignored the newspapers (this was more related to the political environment rather than work).  The fact most Californians had reached the point they didn't want to talk about it either did help. 

All of this helped me get some really good downtime, to the extent that was possible. 

There was only one problem.

For two weeks, I didn't have a constant barrage of problems to solve. I don't know if it's habit or an addiction, however my brain would start inventing problems to solve. 

I would be half asleep and all of a sudden all of these non existent problems would appear in my head that needed a solution. It was really bizarre.

One of my management techniques has been to develop my "observing mind" that's referred to extensively in Eastern philosophies. I could watch myself creating this twisted mess of non existent problems that needed a solution. 

I eventually came to the conclusion my brain was bored and needed the stimulation. The rest of me wasn't and I got some amazing R&R in, hence now feel refreshed, which is what I was looking for. 

I didn't find the magic bullet that would trick my brain into taking a holiday (that only seems to happen over Christmas). Maybe I will one day. For now the fact the rest of me got a holiday seems to have done the trick.