The creative’s guide to the art of the vacation

Vacation is a time to reset. And few things needs that break more than the precious creative mind. We asked agency creatives on how to vacation to its fullest degree.

Step one: Take a vacation.
The hardest part of taking a break is taking a break. Matt Dowshen, president at Partners & Napier New York, said when he was telling his partner Ted Florea he was going to take a break next week, he told him to do the same. “I said, ‘Dude, take a week off for God’s sake.’ So, we’re both going. At the same time, different places,” he said. “The reality is, a week will not kill us. It will make us better. Everyone needs a breath of fresh air.”

Aaron Shapiro, CEO at Huge, said that even if you can’t physically go somewhere, do something active for a few days. He recently bought a pitching machine which he takes down to a nearby park so he can hit a few balls to relax.

Step two: The out-of-office.
Don’t do those automated out-of-the-office messages, advises Mick DiMaria, group creative director at 72andSunny, who chose Plum Island, Massachusetts, for a 10-day vacation. They’re so cold and impersonal. “Those who need to know you’re out, know that you’re out. Those who don’t, can wait a couple days.”

One agency executive creative director said he has a “polite” out-of-office for clients and external e-mail, but a decidedly less civil one for people within the agency that e-mail him. It’s only two words: “fuck off.”

Step three: Avoid temptation.
DiMaria goes extreme: He doesn’t check his email at all. “Not even scan it.” It’s the same with the Internet in general. “I have the social media addiction of a 10th grader, so I’m used to checking stuff first thing in the morning and last thing at night. Not on vacay,” said DiMaria.

Dowshen allows one half-hour block a day to check in on the office. “Or fine, just say ‘screw it’ and work all day, but do it poolside,” he said. “Jumping into a cold body of water after an annoying phone is catharsis you can’t get in the office.”

Lauren Kushner, a partner at Kettle, recommended splitting work and personal email between two apps. That ensures you don’t “accidentally” look work email while checking regular email. And turn off those push notifications to avoid temptation.

Step four: Be in the moment.
Carrie Faverty, casting director at Sound Lounge, likes to find a bar or cafe and people watch for a few hours as soon as she arrives. “My recommendation is to pick one place to visit per day, and spend the rest of your time wandering,” she said.

Shapiro said spending time with the kids is key to vacation. “My eldest sons are at an age now where they’re starting to ask more and more questions about how things work and why things work the way they do,” he said. “Explaining things to 5- and 7-year-olds forces me to simplify my thought stream and find ways to creatively communicate ideas. It’s also a great way to identify what’s broken and needs to be made simpler and easier to use.”

DiMaria has a more straightforward hack: Drink every day. “You can detox when you get back.”

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