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Time to take an innovation vacation?

By Brent Beshore,

 Any successful business owner grinds. You have meetings, you counsel employees, you review legal documents, you approve budgets — and that’s all before 9 a.m. You’re so bombarded that you can’t get out of the grind and see the big picture.

 Despite your packed schedule, you need a vacation. It sounds counterintuitive, but being busy inevitably hurts your business. While you’re hurriedly producing, your ability to see the important is overcome by your reactions to the immediate. An innovation vacation allows your mind to break from the routine and put its energies toward your long-term vision.

I coined the term “innovation vacation” to distinguish between a hard-partying trip with friends and a break that breathes new life into your business. A few times per year, I leave for a place very different from my hometown. The idea is to uproot myself from the familiar and go to a place where I’m not cued to do anything.

 When we’re in an environment we know, there are visual cues telling us what to do next: make coffee, read the paper, turn on the laptop. Those routines prevent us from seeing the macro perspective; they keep us firmly tied to our to-do lists.

To break free of my routine, I disconnect from the Internet. I keep one person (my travel partner) connected virtually as an emergency contact, and I take a stack of reading with me. Business books are great tools; they’re meant to shock your system, and they jolt you into thinking another way. Re-read books, and you’ll see how much your thinking changes from one reading to the next. (Recommended reads include books by Guy Kawasaki, Seth Godin, and Jim Collins.)

 ●Day 1: Acclimating. You’ll go through night sweats and nightmares. Don’t worry, that’s just your mind freaking out.

 ●Day 2: Letting your mind go. Read as much as you can, and write down every idea that wanders in.

 ●Day 3: Reviewing your ideas. Some look silly; some are so obvious you’ll wonder why you didn’t come upon them before. Organize, categorize and rank the innovations you created. Contemplate how they could be implemented. You have to decide what you’ll do first — when you get back to the grind, you aren’t going to be strategic.

It seems luxurious to jet off when you’re trying to establish a thriving business, but it’s far more productive than you would think. Good ideas come from experiencing the world. Travel exposes you to different lifestyles; it provides you insights into other markets, products and needs.

 Travel makes you appreciate your own life, too. I see other places and realize I have it good. You acknowledge what you have and others don’t; you miss the things you have at home that you don’t have on the road. It actually makes you grateful for your routine.

 On a side note, you might even be able to write these trips off. Since they serve a business purpose, you may qualify for a deduction, depending on how your expenses are documented and what results come from your efforts. (But I’m not an accountant or lawyer, so seek appropriate counsel.)

 Innovation vacations give your brain a chance to stop managing your existence, and instead, find ways to make it even better. Your business develops as you step away from the details and see the big picture; growing as a person is simply a bonus.

Brent Beshore is chief executive of AdVentures, a Columbia, Mo.-based holding company that creates, enables or acquires companies that offer transformative communications solutions.

Related: How to maintain a healthy home-work balance

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