There are hundreds of different job categories- each with its own necessary modus operandi. A landscape designer or wedding caterer can’t realistically decide to take a long summer holiday, just as a Wall Street day trader shouldn’t take up flexible hours. But remember, regardless of your occupation, we all grew up recognizing a renewed sense of dedication in the fall, following a summertime desire for freedom, and those habitual inclinations will never fully cease to exist.
As the ubiquity of the Internet pervades, shifts in the workplace open up opportunities for mobile working, giving us freedom to be productive. But the Internet, and particularly social media, has also encouraged us to be constantly productive. It’s why you may find yourself hustling, self-promoting and tirelessly networking to launch, to pass that milestone. But eventually if you’re not careful… you will burn yourself out. This summer, take moments to enjoy the natural world around you; find action in relaxation and you’ll find the necessary inspiration for innovation. Here’s how today’s entrepreneurs are doing just that.
Take Breaks, Slow Down
Another conference. “Great.”
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“It’s Sunday morning. Take a deep breath. It’s summer time. Go for a walk. Or a run. Play with your family. Take a nap this afternoon. Read a book. Go to a movie. Chill,” writes Brad Feld of The Foundry Group in his recent post titled “Slow Down to Speed Up.” He suggests cancelling unnecessary meetings, calls and lunches. Do you really have to attend every board meeting? Use Skype and Google Video Chat for meetings. Instead of scheduling with others, schedule time with yourself.
“Basically, I’m trying to slow down. If I do this right, I believe I’ll be able to cover even more ground. I think this applies to any entrepreneur, or anyone involved in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. ‘Being really busy’ is seductive – it has nothing to do with getting things done, or actually accomplishing your goals. But there’s something satisfying, or at least addictive, about being so busy that you don’t have time to think or reflect on what is going on around you. This is a big mistake long term as you’ll ultimately make crummy decisions.”
According to TNW co-founder @Boris, in order to have ideas that change the world, you need to dive in, absorb the medium, then take a step back to see the opportunity. You do this by breaking the pattern.
Travel to a city you’ve never been before.
Take a walk in the woods, or a long shower.
Read a random page on Wikipedia.
Read a book, visit a museum or talk to a stranger.
NYC entrepreneur Nicholas Gavronsky also wrote a blog post this week about learning to take breaks. In addition to taking mini-vacations every 6 months, Gavronsky sets aside 1-1.5 hours a day to staying fit. He writes,
Many of us, especially aspiring entrepreneurs or those working on a startup, think it’s all about working 24/7, all nighters, and red bull fueled brainstorm sessions. However, the farther I get down my path to becoming an entrepreneur, I am learning that it is critical to take a break and refresh yourself mentally and physically. If not you’ll end up burning out, losing focus, and your productivity will plummet.
If staying fit isn’t your idea of fun, NYC based startup SeatGeek likes to keep its team hydrated during the warm summer months, so they plan frequent team drinkups where they partake in craft beers, cocktails, and most importantly – craft beer in a can. “It’s something we’ve been tracking a trend on (#craftcans) for sometime, because well – cans are more fun, better for the environment, and get colder, faster!” says SeatGeek’s Ben Kessler. When they’re not at a East Village watering hole for a team outing, they can most likely be found at Citi Field or Yankee Stadium catching America’s favorite past time, and soaking up the rays.
On the first official day of summer, the NYC based company, Tumblr hosted its staff at a week long “think tank” in the Hamptons (pictured below).
And they aren’t the only company hacking away in the Hamptons. The founders of Of a Kind, a NYC fashion startup that has harnessed the viral power of Tumblr, have just returned from 3 days in Montauk. “We had a lot of work to do on our investment deck so it was the perfect opportunity to sequester ourselves and buckle down on one project without the distraction of meetings and the day-to-day things that pop up in an office setting. We’ve traveled together a few times since launching and always end up talking a lot about how much the change of scenery and pace is so conducive to creating new ideas, and looking at problems in a different light… It’s the kind of ideation that doesn’t happen when you’re sitting in front of your computer or running between meetings or generally just feeling the stress of the typical work day,” says Of A Kind’s Claire Mazur. Pictured below is her co-founder Erica Cerulo reading HBS case studies on the beach.
Expect the Hamptons-hopping to continue throughout the summer, even for the city’s busiest entrepreneurs.
“Starting the Friday before the holiday weekend, I will be working from a wired house in Montauk. We code or conduct business calls as we watch surfers drive bye with their long boards, or ladies who lunch walk their small dogs in the sun. Summer is the best time of year to appreciate everything nature has to offer, and I find myself most productive when I can think through my daily inbox while breathing fresh air and enjoying the surroundings, including the company of friends. So if you have the luxury of working outside on a summer Friday, do. And if you have the flexibility to change up your office space in the summer, I highly recommend doing so. It clears the mind and helps with productivity, but above all, summer is about fun and freedom.”
-Foodspotting co-founder Soraya Darabi
“I want my life to be totally free, surrounded by friends and family but still working productively on what I enjoy,” said Campbell McKellar, the Founder of Loosecubes during our interview in early May. If you’re traveling abroad and looking for office space, look no further. Loosecubes, based in Dumbo, Brooklyn is a site that wants to set the global workplace free. Functioning as a global workspace community, Loosecubes hosts 1,057 spaces in 229 cities in 29 countries, making it largest network of its kind.
The site now offers spaces in all corners of the world as far-reaching as co-working in the Caribbean, collaborative workspace in the Philippines, hip spaces in Berlin Germany, trendy spots in London to small town America in Ft. Collins, Colorado. You could say it’s like the Airbnb for workspaces but no one likes cliché metaphors.
I’m thoroughly convinced that a change of scenery forces us to make little shifts in our habits, and its these adaptations that enable us to grow intellectually. So instead of just little breaks, take A BIG BREAK, and work adventurously.
Getting off the Grid
In his recent post titled “Slow Down to Speed Up,” Brad Feld of The Foundry Group writes, “I too am intensely busy. And anyone who knows me knows that I eventually hit a wall, have short term burnout, need to rest / recover, and then get back at it. However, as I’ve gone through this cycle throughout my life, I’m getting smarter about how to handle it. My week a quarter off the grid helps. July in Alaska helps, (although this summer has a fun, European twist).”
I took a 10-day vacation at the beginning of June with my wife. We went to Israel up north to a spa and shut off our phones for 10 days. It was so relaxing. I did miss some things (95% of Weiner-gate and Lebron losing the NBA Championship) but it allowed me to recharge my batteries. It was my first real vacation since joining Aviary a year ago and boy did I need it. Now I am back and focused and ready to pound the pavement. The best part of the summer is that even when leaving the office at 7 or 8pm it’s still light outside!
– Alex Taub, Aviary’s Head of Business Development
I recently took a 5 day holiday in Portugal and left the following vacation responder: At the moment, I’m letting my computer die as I recharge! Prior to taking time off, I had both physically and emotionally exhausted myself trying to meet everyone in London’s tech scene while concurrently keeping tabs on New York news. The result of that 5 day vacation was the inspiration for this post. I felt so grateful for my work, even missed it quite a bit. I returned ready to hit the ground running.
Before taking time off, make sure that you’ve set up delegates for important, time sensitive work and let your colleagues and professional contacts know you’ll be disconnected in advance. If there is something super sensitive going on, you probably shouldn’t be on vacation, right? But as the pace and presence of technology increases, getting off the grid has never been more important. You are not a robot. You are a human. Or, are you? In mid to late March, I polled the Twitterverse on three different Fridays asking them: Do you have problems “unplugging” while on vacation? Press 1 for Yes. Press 2 for No. 87% of those polled answered Yes. One tech reporter said he hadn’t had a vacation in 3.5 years. One startup founder said she needed a reminder of what a vacation is. This past week, I ran the same poll and found 92% of those polled have problems unplugging on vacation.
No one is going to chastise you for checking in every now and again while you’re on holiday. (Well, maybe your wife will.) But there’s no need to beat yourself up over not being able to unplug completely. Technology is awesome, so go ahead, tweet while you tan. But if you need tips to unplug? Leave your smartphone at home, says @emvignapiano, the Head of Social Media for Mondadori. Or, how about heading to a music festival?
Until America gets with it and embraces the 25-day vacation policy of most European nations, you’ll need to be diligent when choosing a vacation spot. Just before she took off on holiday, I caught up with Dorothy McGivney, the founder of Jauntsetter, a free weekly newsletter that rounds up the very best travel deals of the week, picked especially for New Yorkers. For an off-the-grid retreat from New York City, she recommends a little town upstate called Callicoon. The area is relatively undeveloped and its pristine outdoors offer opportunities to get into nature – there’s a stretch of the Delaware River that’s perfect for tubing, and the surrounding Catskill mountains are perfect for hiking. “What I love about it most is that there’s extremely spotty cellphone service in the area and my friends’ home has no WiFi. Meaning there are zero technical distractions: no push notifications lighting up your iPhone, no text messages interrupting dinner – even cooking is a more focused experience. To find a recipe, we read actual cookbooks – imagine that!” she says. (Callicoon is where she decided to quit her job at Google and start Jauntsetter!)
On the West Coast, she recommends trips to Big Sur (pictured above) where the cellphone service in the area is terrible. Enjoy the gorgeous stretch of Pacific coastline with Redwood forests, have drinks overlooking the ocean at The Post Ranch Inn and enjoy a massage at the Esalan Institute followed by a dip in their (clothing optional) hot springs. She highly recommends renting a yurt in the Tree Bones Resort to really soak up the woodsy atmosphere of the area.
If you need inspiration picking a vacation destination, check out Wanderfly, a fun NYC startup aiming to monetize off of the “travel exploration” space. It’s a beautiful idea and a great way to learn about new places during the preliminary planning phase.
“In my line of work it’s actually very important to make sure you don’t stay inside all summer (or any time of year). I recently returned from an amazing 10-day trip to Iceland. The trip recharged both my love for travel and my love for working in travel…The summer is a time to recharge and recoup. It’s important to give yourself more time to think and plan your next course of action…I also think the summer is an important time of year to physically challenge yourself. My long runs give me time to explore the city and enjoy the outdoors, while giving me time to reflect and think about everything from my new favorite summer song to my life working at Wanderfly. A healthy summer life is one that allows you to do everything you love. Also, cold beer and patio seating is very important.”
-Kerrin Sheldon, Wanderfly’s content manager, writer and planker extraordinaire.
For travel logistics, Hipmunk is my all-time favorite flight search app, and it’s just entered the hotel search space. It’s a team of super smart guys in San Francisco who also created Reddit. It filters flights in the most sensible, “Agony” free way. For hotel deals, visit Jetsetter, Gilt Groupe’s travel arm, which provides high-end, curated deals. Also, never forget to check Airbnb and Roomorama for sweet homestays ranging from tree-houses in the Belize to a hot chick’s couch in Copenhagen. And staying organized? TripIt FTW.
I write this to you now from the back porch of my apartment. It’s Friday, 4pm, and I’ve set up small fan to keep my laptop cool and surprisingly, the MacBook Air has impressive screen brightness. I realize not everyone can be productive while bikini blogging, but the next time you hesitate about getting outside and shaking things up, ask yourself: “Are you really going to have that 10 million idea in an overly air-conditioned board room on a Friday afternoon?” Big spaces allow for big ideas. Get outside and soak up summer.
Everything that is really great and inspiring is created by the individual who can labor in freedom.
-Albert Einstein, ‘Out of My Later Years,’ 1950