“It's just paint,” I said by way of explanation. That seemed to make a lot of sense to him and my longtime friend eventually relaxed in the passenger seat. The sun was shining, the road was perfect, and I'd driven this winding stretch of road hundreds of times, so I'd been taking the straight path through the turns and it hadn't sat well with him until just that moment. I told him that I understood why the lines were painted on the road and had there been a car in either direction I'd have been in my lane, but there wasn't. So I'm a bit of a rule breaker. Not the kind who thinks rules are meant to be broken, but the kind who follows the intent of the law. I see things a bit differently than most. With the comment about paint, my friend understood that I wasn't violating any of the reasons that the paint had been put on the road, just ignoring, well, paint. Had I been pulled over, I would have taken the ticket without complaint. I couldn't argue that driving this way was legal, only that it was safe and enjoyable. But I usually do follow the rules, even to the letter of the law and at work, one of the most important rules is that when someone is on vacation, they're ON VACATION. I believe that a “working vacation” is not a vacation, it's just a change of scenery.

As a manager, I know that vacations are incredibly important, and not just for the person on vacation. Team dynamics change when a team member is out. Teammates pitch in. They step up their game a bit, knowing that these are the people who will cover for them when their own vacation comes around. Sometimes they need a little prodding, but nobody wants to spoil a good thing for everyone. People who don't often work together need to work together more. Some learn new skills to help pick up the slack. There is team building going on. And let's not forget that when teammates do come back from vacations, they're refreshed and recharged. Teams need to recharge periodically and having someone fresh off of vacation recharges the whole team by bringing a little more energy and a little more to talk about at the water cooler.

The funny thing about having real vacations, if you're lucky enough to work with a team who will really give you one, is that you never realize how much you need one until after you've taken it. We're all very good at plowing ahead and carrying on and getting the job done, and while we all like to have some time off, we tend to lose sight of the very reason we all need vacations in the first place: Perspective. The Oxford English Dictionary says perspective is: “true understanding of the relative importance of things; a sense of proportion.” Our perspective, indeed our sense of reality, is shaped by where we're located (mentally at least) and how things look from there. Real perspective comes from looking at things from somewhere else, preferably some “higher ground,” away from our everyday lives and all of the places we can see from there. A change in geography helps, but most importantly we need to climb up out of the well-worn grooves of our everyday lives. Out of what we do, what we think about, and what we see around us. For me, it takes about two full weeks before I even start to see over the ruts of my everyday life. Anything less than two weeks off is just a rest for me and not a vacation.

If you aren't on a team that values vacations this way, you should start building this culture. What good is being a manager if you can't influence and improve your team? Here are two simple rules for your team to get you started:

Vacation rule #1: When sending a teammate off to vacation, tell them in no uncertain terms, “Don't call and don't check your email. We've got you covered. We'll keep you off of any emails you don't really need to know about and we'll CC you on anything you need to know WHEN YOU GET BACK. We have your cell phone number and if you did forget to give someone the password that the success of the entire project hinges on before you left, we'll call you, ask for the password, and then say goodbye. Otherwise, don't expect to hear from us. Enjoy, have fun, sleep late, do cool things, take pictures. Go on vacation!”

Vacation rule #2: Most people on vacation will try to check in. Any response more detailed than, “Everything is fine. Can't wait to hear about your vacation when you get back,” is too much. It's great to feel an obligation to the team, but it's also great that you can trust your team enough to let them handle work for a few weeks. If the vacationer doesn't get a proper vacation, then neither they nor the team will get the benefits. The world is (probably) not going to fall apart in a few short weeks no matter who is on vacation. If it does, then you haven't got a team in the first place.

As I write this, I'm sitting on the lanai, coffee cup beside me, staring out at the vast, blue Pacific Ocean. I'm just over two weeks into my vacation and really starting to fall into it. I wrote an email last week to a co-worker asking how things were going and suggesting we have a Skype call. Like I said, I am a rule breaker. When I get back, I have to remember to thank him for ignoring that email and handling everything for me, but right now I have to get down to the beach. Surf's up and when the waves are good, you have to get in the water. Those are the rules of surfing after all and, well, rules are rules.