Thursday, April 8, 2010

How to plan for your next vacation.

Post 462 - Question: "So, I hear you're going on vacation soon! How long will you be gone?" Answer: "The whole time!"

Americans failed to take 438-million vacation days in 2007 according to a Harris Interactive poll. This is a significantly higher number than in any other industrialized nation. And as a result, America ranks number one in depression and mental health problems, as people here experience burnout, reduced productivity, diminished creativity, failed marriages, and stress-related ailments such as depression, heart disease and stomach ulcers.

Depending on your perspective, Steve Swasey is either an oppressed worker or the luckiest guy in the world. As a salaried employee at Netflix, Swasey has no set number of vacation days. He can spend as much time out of his California office as he wants, provided he gets all his work done. And there's the hitch: Like many of today's competitive professionals, Swasey always has more work that he can do. "We're always on, 24/7," says Swasey, who admits to checking his BlackBerry throughout a recent trip with his wife to Chile. Still, he insists that he and his colleagues are "not being workaholics. It's being engaged with your job because you love what you do." Thanks to Netflix's unlimited vacation policy, Swasey leaves the office a lot. But the office usually goes with him.

Many people when they do take vacations often bring work along with them, keeping themselves essentially still in the work mindset they’re supposedly trying to escape. This is unfortunate for several reasons:

* Vacations Promote Creativity:
A true vacation can help people reconnect with themselves, providing a vehicle for self-discovery that helps them get back to feeling their best.

* Vacations Help People Avoid Burnout:
Employees who take regular time to relax are less likely to experience burnout. This makes them more creative and productive than their overworked, under-rested counterparts.

* Vacations Can Keep People Healthy:
Taking regular time off to ‘recharge the batteries’ lowers stress levels, which in turn keeps people healthier.

* Vacations Can Strengthen Relationships:
Spending time enjoying life with loved ones can keep interpersonal relationships strong, thus increasing enjoyment of the good times and helping to work through the stress of the bad times. A study by the Arizona Department of Health and Human Services found that women who took vacations were more satisfied with their marriages than those who did not.

• Vacations Can Help With Job Performance:
The Arizona study also showed that the psychological benefits of more frequent vacations led to increased quality of life, and that in turn led to increased job performance.

Jobs can be greedy things, gobbling up all the time we give them. In a country where we have six weeks less time off per year than our Western European counterparts, nearly half (46 percent) of U.S. employees feel overworked, according to the Families and Work Institute. Often people are reluctant to take vacation because work piles up while they're away, making re-entry to the workplace very stressful. Here are several survival strategies that help to avoid this:

* Take care of as much work as you can before leaving for vacation.

* Make choices about how you do your work so you don't have work pile-ups when you return.

* Don't schedule anything on your calendar for your first day back.

Try to remember that, "An unhurried sense of time is in itself a form of wealth," according to Bonnie Friedman.


Kate DuBois said...

Thanks for highlighting the importance of really stepping away from work to re-engage more creatively at work. I really appreciated your comments about planning how you'll work - if you have to - during your vacation. I did a 4 day long weekend with friends last week. When they gave me a hard time for being on the computer the first afternoon, I said, "I had a choice to either join you this morning and work for a few hours this afternoon so we could be together an extra night or come in tomorrow morning." They understood, but it was really hard for me to quit so setting the time frame helped a lot.

I also agree with your idea to not schedule anything the day after you return. I got absolutely nothing done yesterday.

And tonight I read an excerpt of a new book by CEO Denice Kronau about falling in love with work...again after you've burned out. She's in your camp after learning the hard way. Good info I think you'll value.

john cotter said...

†hank you - I'll look for a copy of Kronau's book.