I’ve received various letters asking about the wisdom of taking personal time off when work is crazy busy. So in honor of July 4th—a very important holiday for those in the U.S. that falls, sadly, on a Saturday this year—I have decided to devote this week’s post to the issue of vacation time.
(Spoiler alert: the answer is always take it!)
According to Time magazine, in 2013 employed Americans took an average of 16 days of vacation—5 fewer days than in the 1980s. This happened in spite of reams of research supporting the notion that taking vacation is good for your body, your mind, and your soul. Here is more evidence that good things happen when you use those PTO days.
- You are more likely to be promoted. New research actually shows that, counter-intuitively, people who take their vacation time are the ones who get promoted.
- Your brain will thank you. When we take vacation, the brain creates new neural pathways and is far more active than during normal routine life. Even if you stay home and do unusual activities, your brain will be refreshed and more alert.
- Your heart will last longer. The famous Framingham Heart Study, a long-term study that began in 1948 to analyze adult subjects who were at risk of heart disease, revealed that men who didn’t take a vacation for several years were 30 percent more likely to have heart attacks compared with men who did take time off. What’s more, women who took a vacation only once every six years or fewer were almost eight times more likely to develop coronary heart disease or have a heart attack compared with women who vacationed at least twice a year.
- You will be happier. An interesting study published in Applied Research in Quality of Life shows that the happiness that comes from a vacation is derived primarily from the anticipation and planning of it—as much as six weeks of increased happiness.
- You will be more fun and more interesting. Okay, I can’t actually find any research to support this claim, but seriously, you know it’s true.
So take some time to plan your getaway, even if it is months out. Start packing a week in advance to relish a new task that involves visualizing yourself at play (in the waves with the kids, dancing on a cruise ship, hiking up a goat trail). Plan your time away, keeping your calendar clear one day before (to tie up loose ends and resolve last minute emergencies) and one day after (to manage the avalanche of email) your time away. Arrange for dependable backup and a good dog sitter, and put an out-of-office message on your email and voicemail. And go. Go do something different from what you do almost every day of your life.
About the author
Madeleine Homan-Blanchard is a master certified coach, author, speaker, and cofounder of Blanchard Coaching Services. Madeleine’s Advice for the Well Intentioned Manager is a regular Saturday feature for a very select group: well intentioned managers. Leadership is hard—and the more you care, the harder it gets. Join us here each week for insight, resources, and conversation.
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