How To Take A Vacation From Work (Without Actually Taking Time Off)

Beach BallI’m currently reading a biography of Andrew Carnegie.

There are many interesting facts about the man.

Like most, there are things to admire and things to kind of shy away from, but something interesting about him that is that he was a big advocate of vacation and time away from work.

Especially for himself, but also for his managers and workers. Although the latter is a bit of a contradiction because he demanded a lot of those that worked for his companies. A lot usually meant a lot of time.

Anyway, Carnegie struggled as he examined his increasing wealth because the less he worked the more he made. I’m not saying that’s the secret, but there are things he did that allowed him to have a fairly balanced life of work and pleasure.

Probably more than balanced from the view of many.

So if you’re a worker or if you’re an entrepreneur there are a few tricks that Carnegie had that allowed him to be on vacation while making it still seem like he was minding the shop.

1. At Work Vacations & Rest

I’ve read a number of biographies of successful people and one thing they almost all did with their time was break the traditional rules. Where most people would work on the same things everyday, these folks will look to change things up. They’ll schedule time for things like naps, walks and more. Time for thinking and pondering.

For most of us we feel the need to get things done. Doing something that immediately earns money. But successful people have a longer term view. They know that breakthroughs come from long-term thinking. Often from daydreaming.

And the other benefit is that daydreaming allows your brain to recharge. If you schedule an hour a day for daydreaming it will be uncomfortable, but once you’re in the routine you start to recharge. It’s like a mini vacation everyday at work.

It allows you to rest and I would say that you’ll almost always not fall behind on the other “important” work.

2. Leave, But Stay Connected

This has become easy today. It’s actually surprising how Carnegie did this back in the late 1800s. He would travel many times during the year. Often for several weeks and even many months.

He would stay in near constant contact with his managers via letters and telegraphs. He could consult on decisions and not feel like he was completely isolated from the goings on back at home.

The key to it all back then and especially to today is to schedule time to handle work and to enjoy your vacation.

For example, when you’re on vacation take time in the morning to assess the day’s correspondence. Once it’s handled put everything away and enjoy the vacation until the next day.

And it’s okay to miss a day or so too.

Even with Andrew Carnegie, the one-time richest person in the world, there were rarely instances that needed his urgent attention.

It’s easy to confuse urgency with importance.

3. Force Yourself To Delegate

Carnegie was a master at this. He learned early in his career that he wasn’t the best manager. He was good at a lot of things. He worked himself up from a delivery boy to a leading capitalist. He did many tasks, but he always had his eye on being the one in charge and any task that didn’t involve it he would delegate.

This will be easier for entrepreneurs than for workers, but I’ve almost always seen that some tasks that seem important can be delegated even if it’s just for a week or two.

Actually, forcing yourself to test delegate for a week could lead to you realizing that you can delegate something full-time to someone else.

4. Force Yourself To Find Efficiencies

Carnegie was nearly obsessed with business efficiency. He was always looking to lower costs and lower prices. He wanted to be the best and lowest priced product on the market.

This made him constantly look for things to cut out of the entire process including what he did. He also hired managers that felt the same way about efficiencies.

Most of us feel threatened to cut things out of our lives. It makes us feel like we’re not doing as much and not staying as busy.

To be successful and to be able to take time off you need to flip that thinking on its head.

Sometimes a vacation can even help you identify the things you can cut.

5. Set Limits

If you allow yourself to work 12 hours you’ll find things to fill it with. Usually not with productive things. Just busy work.

Carnegie was big on this too. He looked down on those that needed a full day to get a day’s work done. He would work a couple hours in the morning and feel like he got an entire day’s work in.

He would set the 2 hour or 4 hour time limit on himself and that would force him to fill it with only the most important tasks. The rest he would cut or delegate.

Limits are a big part of work. The fewer limits you have the more you’ll get out of hand with working.

Setting limits on your time will free up more time for vacation.


It may seem like there is little time for vacation today. But I think a lot of it comes from the barriers we put on ourselves. Or perhaps the expectations we put on ourselves. In reality, some of the most successful people in history have found ways to do incredible work while also enjoying vacation time.

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