(A version of this article was recently published in the Austin Business Journal. Below I’ll cover some of the high points of that piece.)
Think you don’t have time to take a vacation? Think you can’t afford it? Think again. Recent studies make a convincing argument that you can’t afford not to take a vacation. If you are among the 43 percent of Americans who do not use all of their vacation time each year, then it’s time to rethink your strategy. Research now provides all the ammunition you need to make your next vacation a guilt-free priority.
Vacation provides a crucial opportunity to recharge, refresh, refocus, and rejuvenate. Studies show that vacation is good for your weight and your cardiovascular health, that it lowers your cortisol levels and your blood pressure, and may aid in recovery from diseases such as cancer. You can actually be putting your physical, mental, and fiscal health at risk when you skip vacation.
The realities of a 21st century knowledge worker’s life include multiple devices that you are connected to all day, a constant deluge of hundreds of emails and other communications daily, and a “spinning” brain that keeps you awake at night trying to get everything done and manage all the details of your busy life. A vacation gives you the opportunity to temporarily escape these demands. Because we acclimate to increased stress levels, most people don’t recognize the toll this environment is taking on them, until that environment changes. But you only get the full benefits if you actually do disconnect from work (which only about half of executives report doing).
A change in environment not only provides a mental and physical break, but it allows us distance from our work and our lives that provides a new perspective, a creativity boost, and a clarity of thought that gets buried by the fast pace of our everyday lives. As a knowledge worker, your success depends at least in part on the wisdom, experience, and unique perspective that you bring to your work. Your supply of unique creativity is not endless, and therefore taking the time to recharge it means increased productivity and better results when you return.
For ideas on being productive when preparing to be away, and useful travel tips, check out this post.
Also, you can learn more about the benefits of vacation, and how to be productive when you’re away from the office, in Chapter 6 of Personal Productivity Secrets.
Thanks for reading!
I will certainly never say no to a good vacation. Having a break from work every now and then really does help me recharge. I just recommend making plans a couple of months in advance. You will find better deals on flights, airport transportation, and hotels. It will also give you something to look forward to which helps me enjoy work more, at least until about a week before my trip.
Ah yes, getting ready to be out can make the idea of vacation a bit (or more) stressful! There are some ideas about that in an article I wrote for HBR: Fixing Our Unhealthy Obsession with Work Email. Thanks for reading!