What Your Old Computer Can Teach You About the Importance of Taking a Vacation

It’s August here in Washington, which means it’s prime vacation time. I am guessing you have earned some time away from work. So take it!  If you  think you don’t deserve it, here’s a benchmark. The US Congress has done nothing to deserve a vacation at all and they are taking five weeks right now. So deserved or not, why is taking a vacation so important you ask? I got to thinking about that after reading a speech that Paul Buchheit gave recently that Teague Hopkins (of my Advisory Board) sent me.

Time for a Re-Boot? Photo Credit: Magnus. via Compfight cc
Time for a Re-Boot? Photo Credit: Magnus. via Compfight cc

Paul Buchheit led the project team for Google to develop Gmail. In this speech he gave in July, he talks about the “patterns in your head” and how they can limit your ability to positively transform the world. Comparing our minds to computers, he recommends that we shut down all out-of-control “daemon processes.” As he explains, “daemons are computer programs that run in the background performing various services, often invisible to the user. Sometimes they get out of control and start consuming all of the machine’s memory, processor, or other computing resources. This is one reason why your computer or phone often works better after a reboot.”

I really like this analogy. I am nursing an old PC that needs replacing so I am having this experience every day where background programs are sucking up the PC’s resources and slowing everything to a crawl. I can certainly remember times I felt like that myself. There was all this random stuff running around in my head and my brain just wouldn’t function well.

Taking the analogy further, there is something in computer programming called a memory leak where the program loses track of where it has stored data. This fills up the memory and slows processing down due to what programmers call “thrashing,” where the pointless hunting for lost data in your memory and your hard drive squeezes out all the space for other processing and your computer just gives up.

If your mind has reached a point where your daemons are running wild, your programs can’t access memory, and you are thrashing around till you come to a grinding halt, you need a vacation. Time to re-boot and do some program modifications and maintenance so those memory leaks and daemons stop clogging up your mind when the system starts up again.

You need a vacation from your vocation. You need to use that time to re-boot. If you have learned to meditate, then you are already ahead of the game because you know how to go into the silence and clear your mind. If you don’t meditate, try pushing that daily grind out of your mind with a walk through some stunning natural beauty. There’s a reason we head for the natural environment on vacation. If you can’t get away, maybe you could make a radical change in what your mind is processing (a little re-programming) by doing something like chasing your four-year-old around the yard. Whatever it is, try to re-boot your mind and get a fresh start.

The analogy only goes so far of course and you might try to clear your mind by disconnecting from all your technology including these computer analogies. And don’t forget the best re-boot of all – a good night’s sleep.

P.S.  I am taking my own advice.  See you in September.

2 responses to “What Your Old Computer Can Teach You About the Importance of Taking a Vacation”

  1. That’s a great line .. needing to have a vacation from our vocation. I’m also amused at what the word daemon becomes when you leave out the “a”. Have a great vacation!