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Lesson #5: Take Time Off to Tune Up
From the way he started up his company to the way in which he ran it, Orfalea has made a business out of going against the grain. One of his trademark practices that has helped set him apart from the pack is his habit of just wandering around. “Because I have a tendency to wander, I never spent too much time in my office,” says Orfalea. “My job was going from store to store, noticing what people were doing right. If I had stayed in my office all the time, I would not have discovered all those wonderful ideas to help expand the business.”
Orfalea believed in taking long vacations. Even in his startup days, Orfalea made it a habit to take time off for himself, believing that it helped boost his productivity. “During my years at Kinko’s, I worked very long hours, but I also took frequent, long vacations,” he says. “And when I returned, the first order of business was planning my next vacation.”
How could the head of a billion-dollar operation afford to take such long periods of time off work? Precisely because “the goal was not to avoid work, but to improve my productivity,” he says. “People do not learn new things and think new thoughts by doing the same things every day for months on end. My vacation schedule also defined firm deadlines for important projects, bringing a better sense of priorities to my time in the office.”
Today, Orfalea promotes the idea of at least three weeks at a time of vacation as being effective for anyone in a leadership position. “If you go away for one week, you come back to an extra weeks’ worth of work,” he says. “If you’re gone for two weeks, you come back to an extra two weeks’ worth of work. But if you’re gone for three weeks, everyone figures out how to get along without you and the work gets properly delegated and executed. It’s better for you, better for the business, and better for the development of coworkers.”
What should businesspeople do during that time off? Orfalea suggests exercising, because people who exercise “know they are more likely to have a brainstorm while running than while running a meeting,” he says. “Unfortunately, many managers…buy people’s time rather than investing in their talent.”
Where businesspeople are able to take vacations, Orfalea warns of the importance of not letting it turn into a hectic period of out-of-office scheduling and work. “Real vacations afford adequate time for rejuvenation,” he says. “but I think employers will embrace such policies voluntarily when they recognize the bottom line benefits, such as lower overtime costs, lower absenteeism, lower health care costs, better cross-training (and therefore better customer service), and higher individual worker productivity.”
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