The person standing in line behind you at the coffee shop is prattling on about her upcoming vacation plans. Her trip sounds just like the recent ad you lingered over earlier that morning. Her friend chimes in with the details of her pending getaway. It seems to be that time of year when time-off requests are as common as trips to the water cooler.
“Must be nice,” you think. “Who really has time for such things? Certainly not me.” Your calendar is chock-full of commitments. There’s work – both your full-time job and the side-gig you’re trying to get off the ground. There are regular family commitments and your volunteer activities and that course at the college you signed-up for. You’ll be lucky if you get a moment to sit and read the latest book by your favorite novelist, let alone take a day off! You can barely get through a full week without squeezing in a little work time each day. How are you going to fit in a full day, let alone a full week away from your workload? Wait, before you get yourself too deeply into the pit of “no-time-off” despair, let’s rethink this.
Science Says You Need It
You’re going to want to pay close attention to this: A study conducted by researchers from the University of California, San Francisco and Harvard University found that taking a week of vacation can yield genetic changes that reduce stress and boost your immune system for up to 30 days. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Another study out of Northwestern University discovered that downtime can help us solve problems faster and increase our creativity. To summarize, by not taking time off, you’re missing out on the opportunity to be healthier (physically and mentally), as well as the chance to boost your productivity and creativity. Convinced yet?
You’re Kidding Yourself
Somewhere along the way we succumbed to the fallacy that more time working = more accomplished. In truth, keeping your nose to the grindstone nonstop slows you down. It can lead to stress, fatigue, and a negative outlook; none of which is good for you or your productivity.
Look at your mobile phone. It’s probably sitting within arm’s reach right now. Take note of the icon that tells you how much charge is currently left on your battery. Now imagine you’re using that phone for a multi-hour conference call, a marathon text conversation with a coworker, and some hardcore Googling to find the answer to the question no one can seem to answer. What happens to that battery by the time you’re ready to break away and find yourself some dinner? It’s notably drained, right? Guess what: So are you. The difference is you know you’ve got to hook that phone up to its charger. Why not do the same for yourself?
When You Go, Really Go!
It’s not a vacation if you spend your entire week checking emails and making calls to check in. That’s just working while surrounded by different scenery. If you really want the benefits from taking time off, take time off. Take time pre-trip to delegate tasks that can’t wait for you to return. Update your voicemail message to tell callers you’re going to be unreachable and when they can expect you to return their calls. Do the same for your email with an automatic reply triggered by newly received emails. This is one week. I promise, most of what is going to come up will not be so urgent that it can’t survive sitting on the shelf until you’re back in the office. The things that can’t wait can handled by those competent team members you’ve entrusted.
Something Is Better Than Nothing
I get it. I’ve worked full-time as a senior executive while writing a book, overseeing my own business, taking college classes, and parenting two children. It can be difficult to find a week of consecutive days you can afford to take off. Don’t let that deter you. You can manage a day out of the office. Make it a Friday or a Monday so you can grab a few relaxing days in a row. Spread your vacation time out and take two-days at a time here and there. Even a single day out of the office can benefit you. Just make sure you’re using that time to recharge, not check-off your list of errands.