Why You Shouldn’t Feel Guilty About Taking Time Out to Recharge and Refocus

Plan to Enjoy Your Vacation This Year

Here it is again, that time of year that you look forward to and dread at the same time: vacation time.

You’ve got so much work on your plate you can hardly breathe. You’re torn between keeping up with your never-ending to-do list and languishing on a beach somewhere (all the while feeling guilty and like a real slacker).

Yes, you could use a breather. You deserve a vacation as much as the next high performer. You should go. Have fun.

But you’re plagued with this nagging fear that may sound something like this:

“Can they make it without me?” (or will I have a big mess to clean up when I get back?)

“Will I miss an opportunity?” (also known as FOMO, the fear of missing out).

Or, “Can I make it without having something to do?” (or what will I do with all that free time?)

Why Taking Time Off Should Be a Priority

Most developed countries have a vacation mandate. The United States doesn’t and as a result, taking some down time can be pretty low on your priority list.

But human beings weren’t designed to constantly expend energy without recharging.

Running a high-performance engine at continuous highspeed causes significant wear and tear and ultimately, costly breakdowns.

The same is true for you — staying in constant production mode, in a stress-filled job without a break, can cause mental and physical health problems.

Pushing too hard for too long can decrease productivity, increase burnout and dissatisfaction, which can negatively affect your mood.

Being increasingly unhappy and irritable can affect the way you communicate, how you treat people and ultimately, the well-being of your relationships at work and at home.

Running on, or near empty, can lead to exhaustion, lethargy and can lower your resistance to illness.

In his book The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working (Free Press, 2010), Tony Schwartz cites a Framingham Heart Study, which tracked women with no previous heart disease for over 20 years. It found that those who took the fewest vacations were twice as likely to get a heart attack than those who took the most vacations.

You’d think that taking some downtime would hurt your level of productivity but the opposite is true.

In his book The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work (Crown Business, 2010), Shawn Achor cites research from the American Psychological Association that found when “the brain can think positively, productivity improves by 31 percent, sales increase by 37 percent, and creativity and revenues can triple.”

When you’re on vacation your brain can rest. A rested brain can think positively, solve problems easier, introduce new ideas that you’d never considered before, and give you the space to decide what changes you’d like to make or dream about how you’d like your life to be.

And, it can be good for your performance at work too. A 2006 study of employees at Ernst & Young found that for each 10 hours of vacation employees took each month, their performance reviews were 8 percent higher the following year, and they were more likely to stay at their firm.

Plan for JOMO

If you hesitate to take vacation because of a version of fear of missing out (FOMO) like you’ll lose track of what’s going on, a co-worker will take your spot or you’ll miss out on an opportunity,

Don’t let the past steal your present. — Taylor Caldwell

Those who live in the moment, rather than worrying about what happened in the past or what could happen in the future “tend to be happier, calmer, more relaxed and appreciative,” says Elyssa Barbash, Ph.D in her blog for Psychology Today. “Depression lives in the past and anxiety lives in the future. Alternatively, calmness and peace of mind live in the present.”

Take back the control of your life. Rather than the fear of missing out, plan for the JOMO (the joy of missing out). Being present to what’s happening in the moment brings greater peace, satisfaction, and well-being.

How do you let JOMO rule this vacation? Take control of your timeout and your future well-being by creating a Recharge Contingency Plan.

Create Your Recharge Contingency Plan

Here are 5 steps for planning to enjoy your vacation this year:

1. Make Room

Have you ever heard of the Rock, Pebbles and Sand Analogy?

A philosophy professor held up an empty jar filled with large rocks and asked his students if the jar was full. The students said it was.

When he added pebbles into the jar and they fell in among the large rocks he asked them again if the jar was full. They said it was.

Then he poured sand into the jar to fill any remaining spaces. The students agreed the jar was completely full. The professor explained that the jar represents one’s life.

The rocks represent the most important things to you. The pebbles represent what really matters but what you could live without. The sand represents the remaining filler things in your life.

The lesson is, if you start filling your jar up with sand (those things that don’t have the most meaning in your life), when it’s time for the rocks or pebbles, you won’t have any room for the really important things.

How important is your mental and physical health and well-being?

If it’s important to you, start with some rocks. At the start of the new year, or even now for the rest of the year, block off some well-deserved vacation time on your calendar.

Having vacation time on your calendar will make it a priority, easier to organize and to plan for in advance. Make your time to recharge and refocus as non-negotiable as any important client or doctor’s appointment.

2. Know Yourself

What kind of a vacation is best for you? Do you like to be active? Or would you rather find a peaceful spot? Do you like tours planned in advance or do you like to wing it when you get to a destination? Pick your vacation adventure based on the kind of person you know you are and what you like.

3. Get Ready

Talk to your colleagues about the time you’re taking off and what your expectations are. Plan ahead. Prioritize tasks, work smarter so you can get as much done as possible before you leave.

4. Prepare Your Colleagues

If you believe your existing team will flounder without you there, what kind of training is necessary to leave your workload in someone’s capable hands? Is there an opportunity to give someone a chance to grow through a mentorship in advance of your leaving? Put a communications plan in place so you and everyone you work with know how and when to reach you.

5. Make arrangements

With plenty of lead time when you plan your vacation in advance, you’ll be able to find good deals on tickets. By making arrangements in advance, there’s no excuses like, “it’s too late to make arrangements or flights or hotels are already booked.”

Start Taking Steps Today!

So if you’ve been reluctant to take a vacation for fear of losing productivity or FOMO, now you know a vacation can make you more productive, creative, and can improve your health and wellbeing. Allow yourself to stop feeling guilty or worrying about a future that isn’t even here yet. You have some new steps to take. If you don’t have a vacation planned, start doing that today. And next time you’re out of the office relax and be present. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at the results!

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