Vacation gets a lot of attention this time of year as Central Texas temperatures climb and people flee to the beach, the mountains or a nearby lake. But perhaps you are among the 43 percent of Americans who do not use all of their vacation time each year. Then this message is definitely for you: Please take a vacation.
If you feel like you don’t have the time or the money to get away from work, I’m about to give you all the ammunition you need to make your next vacation a guilt-free priority.
According to a 2010 study, only 57 percent of Americans use all their vacation time. This means that the rest of us are not taking nearly enough time to recharge. Studies show that vacation is good for your cardiovascular health and your waistline, lowers your cortisol levels and your blood pressure, and may aid in recovery from diseases such as cancer. It’s clear that skipping vacation can actually put your physical, mental, and fiscal health at risk.
If you are a 21st century knowledge worker, small business owner or entrepreneur, then you probably carry both a laptop and a smartphone, manage 100-plus emails a day and could earn an Olympic medal in “mental gymnastics.” You expend a lot of effort to stay on your toes, feel productive and keep track of the details of a busy life. You also may have a “spinning” brain that keeps you awake at night and a gnawing sense that it’s not all getting done.
That’s why you need a vacation, because you may not recognize how much stress you are under, or how frazzled you are, until you change your environment.
If you do manage to take a week-long break from time to time, you might feel like one week isn’t enough. You may rush around in preparation in the days before leaving the office, which means beginning your vacation with heightened stress. Then it takes longer to unwind. Often, it’s hard to leave the office completely behind, and for the first few days you might worry about what you’ve left unfinished. Even worse, you may continue to check voicemail and email. It might be day three or four before you start to relax, which might last until day five or six, when you start to stress over what will be waiting for you when you return on day 7 or 8.
Vacation has a valuable lesson: It teaches us to unplug. A recent survey suggests that executives are improving in this area. Of 1,400 chief financial officers, 51 percent reported they do not plan to check in with the office this year while they’re on vacation. That’s a significant increase from the stressed-out executives on vacation in 2010 (26 percent not checking in) and 2005 (21 percent not checking in).
Personally, I admire this executive trend. I recently returned from a 12-day trip where I didn’t check in on work once. I never checked my email or my voicemail; there was no “in case of emergency” on my out-of-office messages. When I came back, I was refreshed and energized. I possessed a vigor that I haven’t had since my last extended vacation. I felt more productive, inspired by a fresh perspective and more creativity.
So if you think “Vacation” is just an ’80s pop hit by the Go Go’s, then you probably need one. This is about reaching your optimal personal productivity.
Originally Published: http://www.bizjournals.com/austin/print-edition/2012/07/06/for-productivitys-sake.html