time off

Viva Nica! The Power of Peer Groups and Getting Away

By Kristen Harris

My entrepreneur peer group took a trip to Nicaragua last week.

This one sentence and trip touch on three things I believe to be important in my life: time away (a trip), new experiences (to Nicaragua) and finding a tribe (my peer group).

Time Away

Today information is always available in the cloud and on our devices. We have the ability to work 24/7/365, but should we? I say no, and there’s evidence to back me up.

Over the past few years, there have been several studies and articles in publications like Forbes, Harvard Business Review, and Inc Magazine touting the benefits of taking time away from work. Stepping away from work, taking a break, and going on vacation all have been shown to improve both the quality and quantity of work done when we are back.

Taking time out of the office allows me to gain clarity, changes my perspective, helps me see the bigger picture, and leaves me refreshed mentally and physically. Taking a trip is great, but I also try to enjoy the weekends, take a short walk during the day and step away from my desk for a few minutes during the workday. Even small breaks can have a big impact.

New Experiences

A lot of the work we do today is not physical labor, it’s mental labor. We have to figure out issues, solve problems, build relationships, research information and develop new concepts, then we might physically build something (or not). There is a lot of thinking done every day where we’re drawing upon prior knowledge and experiences.

Having a broader range of experiences gives me a deeper well to draw from. New experiences add more data, ideas, visuals, thoughts, and perspectives to my mental database.

New experiences also allow me to get out of my “bubble”. When I do the same things, talk to the same people and go the same places, my ideas tend to stay the same as well. When I do something new my potential ideas and solutions are expanded as well. In Nicaragua, I surfed (not well) and saw an awe-inspiring active volcano, two completely new experiences.

Finding a Tribe

While it’s good to expand horizons it’s also important to find your peer group, your tribe.

Humans are social and tribal. We connect with others where we have something in common and seek support from those who understand us. This can be done formally or informally through family, business groups, social clubs, neighbors and special interest organizations.

Like most people, I have different tribes related to different parts of my job and life. I’m a member of formal peer groups, like the one that took this trip, and informal groups that share a common connection, like all the dog-owners who live on my street.

These groups allow me to share issues and challenges with people who understand what I’m going through. They may have had the same experience, can share an idea or solution for me, or just be supportive as I figure it out. And, because we usually share one interest but are different in other ways, I find that I often become friends with people I would never have met otherwise.

Together all three of these things–time away, new experiences and finding a tribe–help to expand my perspective and enhance my work. Who knows what new idea that active volcano might inspire!