I love vacations. I recently returned from a short weekend vacation with my wife to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. OBX is one of my favorite spots in the world, and it’s a place I can truly relax. I love eating seafood and walking on the beach. I love sleeping in a little bit. I even love walking through shops with my wife.
Getting out of my day to day routine and into new surroundings is invigorating. Vacations are an excellent opportunity to give your conscious mind a break and let your subconscious chew on and digest the data and ideas you’ve been absorbing. The one thing I love most about vacations is the creative ideas, clarity, and solutions that come to me.
I call this phenomenon “The Vacation Effect.” is what happens when we give our conscious mind a break and allow our subconscious mind to digest and integrate the information and ideas we’ve been consuming. We are continuously bombarded with information. Social media, TV, radio, and podcasts are all always filling our conscious minds with information.
The problem is if we don’t integrate this information into our subconscious, we really can’t use it. The subconscious is like the database of our minds. It’s used to store information for later retrieval. Without quiet time we can’t move information from our conscious to our subconscious minds where it can be filed for retrieval and use later.
Basically, our internal hard drive gets fragmented. There’s a reason we use the term “digest” to describe the process of taking in and integrating data. Just like that other form of digestion, if you keep taking in stuff before you absorb it, the stuff backs up.
I think this mental constipation has a lot to do with our current societal issues. Have you heard the term “food for thought”? What happens when we eat too much? We get fat and slow. The same things happen with information. Taking in too much information without enough absorption leads to an urgent and uncomfortable feeling with no useful production. OK, enough potty humor.
Once this information is integrated, the subconscious can then go about applying it to questions and problems we’ve been working on. Granted, this application happens in a somewhat random fashion. You may want to figure out the marketing strategy for the Flugelbinder account, but you come up with a great way to re-wallpaper the bathroom.
I’ve been thinking of starting a podcast with a friend of mine. We’ve been kicking it around for a little while but hadn’t committed to doing it. During the weekend away, while driving around with the windows down, the pieces fell into place. Without consciously thinking about it, the plan, topics, and scripts sprang from my head like Athena from the head of Zeus. Two days after getting home, my buddy and I recorded the first episode of our podcast.
While The Vacation Effect is most profound on vacation (duh), I’ve also found it in other places. I travel quite a bit for work, sometimes driving 6 to 9 hours at a time to my locations. My company would pay for me to fly, but I prefer to drive. Why? Because I have some of my best ideas 7 hours into a 9-hour drive. The window down, a podcast or music playing in the background, and my subconscious mind analyzing, sorting, and storing data for the first 6 hours to be recalled and applied in that magic 7th hour.
I’ve also had The Vacation Effect hit during extended periods of physical labor. We live on 5 acres of land on what used to be an old dairy farm. There’s never a lack of things to do. I was mowing the field, mending fences, clearing brush name only a few of the tasks. A couple of weeks ago, I took the weekend to cut, clear, and haul some trees that had fallen during a storm. Late in the day, I thought of the solution to an issue at work I’d been chewing on for over a month.
The Vacation Effect isn’t something that’s guaranteed. It requires time and detachment. In my experience, it takes at LEAST 4 hours before your conscious mind has unraveled and relaxed enough to begin processing information into your subconscious. It also requires quiet. Music or other inputs are OK, but only as background noise. If you’re paying attention to it, your mind will focus on taking in new information rather than processing what’s already in your head. You have to be willing to give your mind the space it needs to work.
We live in the information age and have an endless supply of data and inputs available to us. Why then do we seem to get less done? Because we don’t take the time to absorb the information we’ve taken in. Our minds need peace and detachment to process and file that information so we can efficiently use it later. Let your mind have a vacation, and see what new worlds you find.
Written by Scott
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