By Geoff Colvin and Ryan Derousseau
August 29, 2016

Here in the U.S. it’s that magic week before Labor Day, the calm before the storm, an opportunity not to be wasted. A week from tomorrow the country returns from vacation. All the work that has been put off for the past month will have to get done, and within an hour you’ll be buried in urgent minutiae. So whether you’re on vacation or it’s just a slow week at work, use these next seven days not just to relax and recharge, but also to do four things that will benefit your business and your life.

-Create a team to disrupt your organization. Whether your organization is a whole company, a division, an office, a non-profit, a government operation, a school, or anything else, someone is rethinking it from the ground up. You may believe you’re doing the same, and maybe you are, but probably not. To get ahead of disruptors, assign a subset of your team (or just one member if it’s a small team) to use everything they know to create a model for making your organization irrelevant or unnecessary. If possible, move them physically away; at least have them hold their meetings elsewhere. You may be amazed by what they imagine.

-Make the notes for your exit interview. Assume you’ve just quit or been fired, leaving never to return. You’re free to burn bridges or just to reflect on what you wish you or the organization had done or would do. Write it all down and stick it in a drawer. Then look at it every once in a while.

-Read a book of high-quality fiction. That is, not the usual beach reading by hit machines like James Patterson and John Grisham. Research shows that reading literary fiction builds empathy, which I strongly believe is the foundation of our economic value as technology advances (allow me to plug shamelessly my book Humans Are Underrated: What High Achievers Know That Brilliant Machines Never Will. But forget all that; it just makes us better people. If you’re a man, you probably read little or no fiction and may be wondering where to start. I like this list covering the period 1678 to 2000. For a more contemporary list (since 1969), you can’t beat the winners of the Man Booker Prize.

-Picture the speeches at your 80th birthday party. Stephen Covey championed this exercise. What will you be remembered for? All the speakers at your party will be nice, but will they sum you up in the way you’d like? Or will they only be able to cite actions that, while laudable, aren’t what you think you’re really all about?

Most of us feel that we almost never have time to lift our heads up from the demands of the day and reflect on the larger questions in our lives. This may be your best chance until the year-end holidays. Seize it.

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