Vacation: Springboard for success?

In a time when speed and efficiency are prized commodities, finding time to wind down and recharge is essential. Here’s why and how to do it. The responsibilities of a career and a family (and those dreaded college loans along with all the other bills) have a way of crushing any hopes for a great vacation.

We have to keep working harder so we can get the promotion, so we can make more money, so can pay off those bills, so we can keep buying more stuff and the cycle continues. So let’s take a look at the value of vacation.

Why Vacations are Important

The American way is to work harder than everyone else in the world (though some other cultures such as the South Korean and Japanese may protest. I mean the Japanese even have a work for working yourself to death (literally) – it is Karōshi (過労死) but does this approach work? What does the evidence show? Well, frankly, a lot.

Machu Picchu

It seems pretty clear that all work and no play makes Jack a dull, dull boy. We know this intuitively. Those who are so singularly focused on work to the detriment of social connections, hobbies, and other outlets are likely missing out on real experiences to grow as a person. Vacations can help with that and in fact, they serve several important purposes: one is they allow you to get away from the daily grind and actually decompress and RELAX (Yes hard to believe but that may be possible at least for a short while.) They also allow you to explore and grow as a human being. (I have never been to Peru but everyone who has tells me that visiting Machu Pichu will change your life – put that on your bucket list.)

And they allow you to build a repository of great memories that can increase your happiness every time you look back fondly on them. But, perhaps surprisingly, even more than that, the ANTICIPATION of vacation alone can create positive emotions and enhance mood. In Jonathan Clements great book, “How to Think About Money,” he really delves deep into how experiences, such as vacations, rather than material possessions provide much more value for your hard earned dollars, especially because of the reasons mentioned above.

Scheduling Vacations without Feeling Guilty

So if vacations are so useful, why do we only tend to take them begrudgingly, if at all. There is no doubt that if you are a young professional you understand the pressure that comes with being the lowest (or lower) person on the totem pole. You have to always appear to be busy, never complain, never whine, and definitely never take time off for fear of looking weak and not useful. And I have to admit I also subscribed to that type of thinking. But, with experience and with a young family, I realized that life and a career are marathons and not sprints. You can’t burn both ends of the candle forever.

We all hear of the flashy CEO who claims to sleep only four hours a day but as Robert Pozen, a successful lawyer/financial executive/lecturer at MIT and Harvard states (and I am paraphrasing) these are also the same people who are snoozing during the middle of meetings.

A beach at sunset

So I don’t buy this work 24/7 mentality anymore. And I take my vacations much more seriously now. What really changed my thinking on vacation, from a logistic perspective, was the great book, “The One Thing” by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan’s book. (Gary Keller is a founder of Keller-Williams, an exceptionally large real estate company and Jay Papasan is an editor and publisher.) The authors advocate that when planning (you know you should be doing that, right?) your year in advance, you should block out time to for vacations FIRST, before anything else.

Why prioritize vacations?

For all the reasons mentioned above, but it is also to perform a bit of mental sleight of hand because if you don’t plan your time off in advance then it is very easy to lose that time to other things, especially work. Remember, in life there is never a convenient time to do anything. It is never convenient to take time off for a surgery you otherwise desperately need (we see this all the time with patients who have severe arthritis and need a knee or hip replacement. They keep staving off the inevitable and suffering because “the time is not right.”) It is never convenient to have to have your car serviced and be stuck with a loaner or even worse, nothing. It is not even convenient to spend 5 minutes each day just to review your day in advance or meditate on the things that are important to you (simple things which can dramatically change your focus and results).

The moral of the story is, that you have to be proactive — you have to plan for things that are important to you in advance so that you will automatically carve out the time to do them. This is especially true for vacations.

Plus it also allows others to account for any period of time you may be absent for work.

It seems counter-intuitive but you should always take the time that is rightly yours and use it for whatever it is that will bring you the most satisfaction. We call it a vacation in the States but it could be a stay-cation, it could be a grand cruise around Europe, it could be an adventure trip to the Himalayas or it could just be a chance to read a good book for once and just THINK. Whatever it is, use that time wisely because if you do it will make you saner, more well rounded and ultimately more productive!

Takeaway Points:

  1. Block your vacation time first, before anything else when looking at your year ahead!
  2. Vacations have can provide much more long lasting satisfaction and happiness than any material possession can bring!
  3. Vacation can be anything, as long as you are not doing your usual routine and away from the job!
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