Need a reason to take a vacation? Read on about the benefits of taking REAL time off on your mental health and productivity…
Having just come back from 3 weeks off in the USA as I write this, I am feeling more refreshed than I have in the 12 months since my last break. I was able to disconnect from work, leave my phone at home, and really just embrace what was in front of me – after all, isn’t half the reason we work to provide ourselves with the means to ensure we can live a full life? We are hardly doing that if in the 1/12 of the year that we have off for rest and recreation we aren’t actually resting or relaxing!
We live in a world now where the definition of taking time off isn’t truly realised. We go on leave, yet we still check our emails (whether expected to, or not), we think about all the things we didn’t get to. We take calls from colleagues on issues that they can work out themselves. Why? Why do so many of us take this ‘time off’, just to actually work or stay connected, but just from a different location? For some of us it is the inability to not be ‘wired-in’. We’ve forgotten what it is like to really disconnect and to focus on more than just keeping up with the number of unread emails in our inbox. For others, (maybe consciously, or unconsciously), it is ‘martyr syndrome’. We think no one else can do our jobs, or that the place will fall apart without us, so we use that as our excuse not to take a vacay.
Some would argue they are in positions that don’t allow them ‘real’ time off, and that they must be on call 24/7. Although I can appreciate this to some extent, I also firmly belief that no one can be on 24/7, and that we, as human beings need a break to recharge, reassess and rejuvenate, in order to really be present at our full potential in the long run. What favour are you really doing your colleagues if you are burnt out, stressed or exhausted?
The last three weeks have reminded me of the following things which I wanted to share with you, just incase you needed another reason to take a well-deserved break to really disconnect!
Vacations are good for the soul – just planning a vacation seems to have an automatic impact on your soul and your attitude. Having something that YOU have planned (or paid someone to plan!), that is your choice to do, and that you are looking forward to, plays wonders on your approach to everything. Imagine the goodness that then comes when you actually get to the holiday!
Vacations actually help make you more productive at work (Yes, for reals!) – taking time out away from the day to day and resting those ‘hamster muscles’ for a while does wonders for your productivity levels when you do return to work. Your energy levels are higher (once you get past those post-travel blues, of course!), decisions become easier to make, and information easier to manage and absorb. Why? Because you’ve actually given your brain a chance to slow down and think about something else.
Vacations help you rekindle relationships – Sometimes we forget the importance of quality time with those we love until we are away from the day to day grind with them. Time with friends, family and loved ones on vacations gives you the best opportunity to have more meaningful and quality conversations, instead of those related just to power bills, dinner plans, or shopping lists!
Vacations help you reassess your priorities – Being somewhere else brings a feeling of contentment and helps you reassess what is important to you. This isn’t something you can do when you are answering 100 unopened emails, and returning a multitude of missed calls. You need to separate yourself from your work. Stop. Unwind. Reset. Reassess what are the most important things in this life to you. I guarantee you it isn’t those 100 emails!
Vacations help you open up to multiple perspectives – Being away from the day to day helps you appreciate new perspectives, new opinions and that there might just be more than one way to skin a cat! Taking a step back from the tactical or transactional parts of your work and life also give you the opportunity to reflect on the strategic parts of it, which often makes you then realise that the little things that you thought were SO important, really often aren’t.
Vacations are good for your mental health and resilience – Vacations can be calming and help relieve stress. Stepping away from your work is one of the best ways for the mind and body to heal, and for your brain to have the opportunity to reboot. Ever had that feeling when you come back from holidays like you are a bit slower? Enjoy this! It means your body has finally slowed down, the brain is relaxed and everything is rebooting – let it do its thing!
Vacation is not a dirty word, and if there is one thing I have learnt, we often put more pressure on ourselves for taking it (and what might, but likely won’t, happen in our absence) than those around us do. So, cut the crap, don’t suffer from ‘martyr syndrome’ and think there is no one else who can pick up your work. Never feel guilty for switching off, and most importantly, make sure you enjoy the fruits of your hard work.
P.s Just incase you still need convincing about the value of time off, check out this TED Talk (one of my favs!) from Stefan Sagmeister. Every seven years, designer Stefan closes his New York studio for a yearlong sabbatical to rejuvenate and refresh. He explains the often-overlooked value of time off and shows the innovative projects inspired by his time in Bali. https://www.ted.com/talks/stefan_sagmeister_the_power_of_time_off
P.P.s This picture is of my partner and I in Yosemite National Park on an amazing day of hiking and adventure!
Claire Seeber xxx
Strong advocate for helping you get the f*ck out of your own way!