Are You Slacking On Vacation?
Every year, I do something astonishing. I go on vacation.
But not a vacation where I am checking my phone on a hike in the woods or trying to see my laptop screen under the hot sun with my toes in the sand.
I am talking about a real vacation—where I leave my computer behind and don’t check email for a week. It was challenging at first but now I realize that I am much better at my job for making this commitment to myself—if just for a week.
People around the world view and use vacation differently. In Europe, for example, time off is sacred. Most of the continent shuts down in August while residents head to beaches for one last hurrah of fun with loved ones before returning to school and work. According to Expedia’s 2014 Vacation Deprivation Study, Europeans took on average 28 days of vacation a year. Compare that to Canadians who took an average of 15. Many residents of Asian countries earned an average of 19 days off, but only took 14. Mexicans only took 12 of 15 days. Those in the U.S. only took an average of 14 days off leaving one vacation day on the table.
This is despite the study finding 80 percent of global workers associate vacationing with overall happiness “a great deal or a fair amount.” What’s more, studies show workers who take time off are more productive after their batteries are recharged.
Vacation in general is really important because it can stimulate creativity. It rests the mind. It rests the body. And, it is very good for overall health and mental capacity. It can enable you to think clearly and be more productive when you come back to work.
So, with this in mind, here are six tips to maximize your vacation.
Take as long as you possibly can in one stint. It takes two days to decompress, a couple days to really get into it, and a couple days to come out of vacation. A three day vacation is going to stunt your ability to decompress. Take as long as you can take in one go.
Go someplace that is really relaxing. Be in nature. Head to the ocean or the woods. Go someplace that has less stimulation than at home or in a city.
Turn off devices. If you are big on social media, delete apps. Turn off your email. Maybe even turn off your phone entirely. Keep your laptop at home. If you must, have a small chunk of time every few days to check email and then shut it all down again so you can keep your mind on relaxing and getting new impulses and inputs.
Take the opportunity to learn something new. This could be a new sport, or an aspect of a new culture such as cuisine. Do something that you haven’t done before to stimulate your brain in a new way—particularly something on the creative side to develop capacity in your left brain. This will strengthen your ability to be successful in what you are doing currently because it gives you a perspective on what your core competencies and strengths are by learning something new.
Sleep and eat well. Try to minimize the partying too much. Some partying, of course, is fun. But try to make sure that you are sleeping, eating and exercising well so that you are really taking care of your body while you are away. That will certainly help you come back feeling much more rested.
Do some journaling or drawing. These are two ways that can really stimulate the brain to be more present and mindful, and have more success in allowing new inputs in and quieting the mind.
If it helps, think of vacation as a requirement for doing your job well. I know time off has helped me and I feel certain it will help you.