Drinking Pernod with locals, rolling in lavender fields getting whorls stuck in my hair, and lazy vineyard-hopping afternoons were just some of the activities I did not partake on a recent trip to France. I went to the Marseille-Provence region for 14 days and sort of locked myself in a hotel room to get some work done. Sure, I could have just stayed in New York -- shut the office door, turned on some beats, and enabled the DND option on my phone promising myself only to step out for lunch. The thing is, passing a vineyard versus someone calling you bitch because they bumped into you was more alluring. Plus, this wasn't a campaign or a proposal I was conjuring that needed concentration. This was a new growth strategy, a new business plan, a new ethos and they required more than just an afternoon replete with distractions. I needed something more. I needed a workation.
What's a workation? Let me explain. We are living in chaotic times and we can never catch up. This is how people must have felt, too, at the beginning of the industrial revolution. Either you adapt and keep up, or die. In Robert Safian's article in Fast Company called This is Generation Flux, he defines the workplace as chaos, but optimistically proclaims, "This is the moment for an explosion of opportunity, there for the taking by those prepared to embrace the change." I am prepared to embrace change. I want to make a future, not break it. While some entrepreneurs like Stefan Sagmeister take long sabbaticals to stay relevant (He takes one full year off for every seven and you can check out his talk on the power of time off here) or larger companies like Ebay and Nike that give employees 4-week sabbaticals I invented the workation-a 14-day working vacation for the small business CEO. Here are three things to think about when planning your own:
Choose a place that inspires you
I started in Mougins, the village where Picasso spent his last twelve years. I wanted to be close to the spirit of Picasso- a prolific artist who emptied his creative tank everyday. I stayed at Manoir de L'Etang just off the main house on the second floor of what may have been maid quarters when it was really a manor house. The room took my breath away. It was effortlessly chic and not too fancy and felt like a writer's room-the place where F. Scott Fitzgerald gave birth to the The Great Gatsby. My window overlooked the largest population of lotus flowers outside of Japan, visible just beyond the open prairie and in the mornings the horses came out and grazed to a slow, elegant rhythm. It was the perfect place to create my future.
Remind yourself and your family that you are not on vacation
When you are on a workation, wake up at 7 a.m. and take in the views with your coffee on the patio overlooking the pool, work from 9-3 and then take off to the Chemin De L'etang for an hour run. Then repeat for six more days. Being in Europe and six hours ahead allowed me to engage fully in the future I want to build while you, Americans, are all sleeping. Evenings on a workation are reserved current projects, new business, paperwork, and catching up with loved ones. And don't mind the solitude.
Get comfortable in total discomfort
Lifecoach Andrew Lustig articulates that the stages of successful actualization come down to formulation, announcement, and concentration. And solitude is necessary to formulate. Davinci, Tesla, and Picasso had an easier time with solitude because they did not have smartphones. Tesla, inventor of the remote control, induction motor, and wireless telegraphy, would work from 9am-6pm alone and then eat dinner at Delmonico's from 8-10p followed by more work until 3am. All alone. Although Tesla may have taken solitude to the extreme-falling in love with pigeons for one- his work habits are attributed to his over 300 patents.
By day 7 I left Mougins and headed east to Bonnieux, where I would spend the remaining days in the Provencale manor house of my childhood friend. I was about to experience one of the debts that come with creativity and solitude- loneliness. Only the sounds of the dishwasher and distant cars were my friends. It's a deep, confounding sense of loss. So uncomfortable with the lack of distractions and the stillness. It's at this precise time of discomfort where I began to really formulate.
After 14 days, I stole some time and answered some of the questions as to where this is all going as it relates to my company and my own personal career and life. My clients, colleagues, and readers look to me as a problem solver with a distinct point of view and after a 14 day workation, I could hear my voice again-unafraid and inspired. Two weeks working towards a future affords you to be present in the now.
Follow Alona Elkayam on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Brandinista