Two things happened within days of each other:
1. My friend emailed me to say he wants to come out to visit in mid-December.
“Sweet, we’ll ski for a few days” I said.
“Maybe, I hadn’t really thought of that. I just needed somewhere to go – I have a ton of vacation days, and if I don’t use them I lose them.”
2. I was working with a global investment firm, and the topic of employee wellness came up.
“We are thinking of mandating that employees take 2 weeks continuous vacation every two years. If we don’t mandate it, they won’t do it. We just can’t get our people to take their vacations!”
If you are thinking these situations are isolated, they are not.
Americans left a total of 658 million vacation days unused in 2015.
658 million paid vacation days unused in one year!!!!!! That’s a staggering figure.
Workaholism is nothing to brag about, however it’s been the textbook humble brag in job interviews for decades.
We think we’ll lose our competitive advantage if we take vacations. Or maybe we think it’s not worth it to ever go away, because we’ll just be buried by an overstuffed inbox upon our return. For many of us, a vacation becomes more of a hassle as we pay money to lug our laptop to an exotic location for a week only to fight with intermittent wifi or frustrate our families.
And, newsflash, being responsive at any hour of any day (in any location) doesn’t necessarily translate into doing high-quality work or increases in pay.
Boost Your Brain & Your Body!
I speak to this often, but suffice it to say that never taking a break actually depletes your brain’s resources and limits your ability to do higher level thinking. Our prefrontal cortex is similar to a gas-guzzling tractor and it needs frequent “re-fueling” to be able to solve complex problems.
Vacations aren’t just good for the brain, they’re good for the heart, too! University of Pittsburgh and SUNY researchers analyzed 9 years of data and concluded that people who took annual vacations had a lower risk of death relative to those who didn’t.
Take a Vacation and Get a Raise!
Harvard Business Review reported that people who took more than 10 of their vacation days had a 65.4% chance of receiving a raise or bonus while those who took fewer days off only had a 34.6% chance of being better compensated.
And fun fact: Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, Instagram founder Kevin Systrom, Dropbox founder Drew Houston, and Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, all cited vacations as being THE impetus for coming up with their most creative and best revenue-generating ideas.
Think of Vacations in the Same Way You View Sleep
Whether your vacation is long or short, the benefits don’t last forever. So waiting a year between vacations is a big gap in prefrontal cortex recovery. Instead, divide your budget and your paid days off to give yourself more frequent holidays.
Self Care is Healthcare!
When we’re constantly putting everyone else’s needs ahead of our own, a vacation can sometimes backfire and add more stress. I wouldn’t trade in my vacation memories with my family for anything in the world, but I do make sure that I take time off, every year, for myself, too.
When I’m not running on empty all of the time, I can be a better boss, a better parent, a better spouse and a better friend. Last year my self-care time off meant that I went on a mountain biking trip with just my best girlfriends, I went on a retreat to Sedona, Arizona, and my husband and I took a few extra days off on the tail end of a business trip for just ourselves.
Whether it’s a staycation in your own town or an adventure to a remote spot on the globe, take a few hours this week to plan some quality time off. I promise you: your body, your brain and your bottom line will thank you for it!
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