Let’s face it, vacations aren’t what they used to be. It used to be, that they were regular occurances. Everyone took their yearly vacation! These days though, that is not the case. Americans just can’t seem to unplug. According to a report by the Project: Time Off Coalition, between 2000 and 2014, the number of vacation days U.S. workers took declined steadily from a long-term average of 20.3 days to 16. And while the number of vacation days taken ticked up to 16.8 in 2016, 54% of employees don’t take their full vacation time each year.
So, see, vacation…not what it used to be.
Oh, I suppose the official definition hasn’t changed much:
vacation [vey-key-shuh n, vuh-]
1 a period of suspension of work, study, or other activity, usually used for rest,
2 a part of the year, regularly set aside, when normal activities are suspended.
3 freedom or release from duty, business, or activity. (Dictionary.com)
Nowhere in these definitions does it say you have to make elaborate plans, go somewhere exotic, or really, well, DO anything.
What all of these definitions have in common, is the idea of just taking a break. I particularly like the word “freedom” in one of the definitions. “Vacation” means the freedom to take some time to do whatever you want…even if that means just staying home. It is a necessary component of sanity.
Now, you may be of the school of thought, especially if you are a business owner or manager, that taking time off will harm your productivity, your bottom line, or maybe even the team around you. But, studies have shown that the exact opposite may be true.
Whereas you don’t have to plan your vacation necessarily, planning the best time to take your vacation may help you alleviate some of the stress.
When you plan your vacation time – your freedom – intelligently, it can be a win-win for everyone involved. It gives you time to relax and offers others a chance to develop their leadership skills. So plan when you know you don’t have any big projects planned, and give yourself time to prepare others in your absence.
Having someone else do your job, giving up a little bit of control, can be unsettling. In fact, I’ve spent many a “vacation” worrying about what I would find when I got back in the office. But with planning and proper communication before I go…it makes for a much smoother transition when I return.
According to startupgrind.com, if a full scale vacation isn’t in the cards for you, here are some other ways you can find some freedom to recharge.
1. Take short breaks from work during the day. Research shows pausing in the middle of a project and switching your attention to something else…a video game, a TV show or a crossword puzzle, gives a different part of our brain a chance to step in. You may come back to the project with a new perspective. Some find the Pomodoro Technique approach of using 25 minutes of work alternated with five minutes of recreation works well.
2. Take more frequent vacations. Americans are allotted an average of 10 days vacation time each year. Instead of taking them all at once, try spreading them out!
3. Take one day–or at least one evening–
off every week. This can help tremendously with work-life balance. More hours spent working does not equal better work.
4. Consider a mid-day nap. For the record, this is something I could NEVER do and I know, it’s a radical suggestion and not practical in every job or workplace. But there’s a growing pile of evidence that shows people who take naps are more alert, more productive, and less prone to mistakes than those who don’t. If napping is completely out of the question, try five or ten minutes of meditation instead.
The importance and benefits of taking time off from work are well-documented. Now go embrace your freedom!