5 Myths about taking time off for vacation
Your boss is good. Real good. He knows how to get stuff done, treat people, seems to be ahead of the pack all the time, always willing to talk, and has a good sense of humor. However, he’s not smiling a lot as you enter his office and sit in one of the chairs in front of his desk. As you walk in, he gets up, walks around the desk and sits in the remaining chair in front of his desk so the two of you are side-by-side. Your first instinct is, “This is going to be bad” because he has never done this before. He goes through the typical, “How ya doing?” conversation and then looks you straight in the eye when he asks, “When was the last time you took some time off for you and the family?” You are dumbfounded. He’s asking almost as if you have done something wrong. But the problem is, you may have.
However, this is not an error if commission, but an error of omission. It’s not what you have done; it’s what you have not done! Your astute boss has been watching you and noticed that the last time you took some time off was almost two years ago, and he wants to know, “why?” And he can’t wait to hear what you have to say; because he is going to shoot down just about every lame excuse you can come up with.
Here are five myths (excuses) you shouldn’t believe (or use):
“I can’t leave. Nobody else can do what I do.”
Ahhh, the biggest excuse of them all. Okay, let me ask the perpetrator of this statement a question, “If you are driving home tonight and you have an accident that puts you in the hospital for 3 weeks, what do you think will happen at work?” Here is where reality sets in, because the answer is that, “work will go on.” Someone will do the work. Your company probably isn’t going to fold because you are not at your desk for a couple of weeks. So, you really can leave.
Now, for those of you who rebuke this argument and still state that you are the only one, there are two things to consider: 1. With a bit of prior planning you can ensure your desk is clean before you leave and 2. If there is a “gaping hole” problem when you leave, then there is also a bigger problem, which revolves around leadership. The supervisor running the show should have ensured (a long time ago) that someone else knows enough about your work to keep the ball rolling in your absence. That person might not be able to do everything you do, but be competent enough to answer questions and keep the wheels from falling off track. In leadership talk, this is what we call a “back-up plan.” Perhaps someone in the company should look into this.
I’m good. I don’t need a break.
Just like an athlete cannot run hours on end, you can’t work with out resting. I’m not talking about sleep. Daily sleep is critical in every aspect of your life and there are books written on the subject proving that fact. No, I am talking about a long-term departure from your daily working environment. You need to leave your daily work so you can recreate. Good word. When you break it down it becomes “Re Create” or “to create again.” When you leave your daily “grind” you have the opportunity to regenerate your self on several levels. And although physically is very important, it is secondary to giving your brain a rest. If you continuously work, you get tired and when you get tired you make mistakes and produce less than adequate results. They don’t pay you for that level of work. Rested people usually make the best employees.
I relax on the weekends. That’s good enough.
Like all the other muscles in your body, your brain needs to relax on a regular basis. It needs to clear itself of all the toxic work thoughts that are crammed into it. For months or maybe a year or more, the major part of your day has been dedicated to thinking about your work. About how something will get done, or when it will get done, or who is going to help you do it, or how many other things are left to be accomplished, or if you will make the company’s goal, or how will the customer accept this particular product, or, or, or,…it goes on and on. The sad part is, when you get home you may only have a short reprieve from the time you walk in the door and through dinner before a lot of those same thoughts start to rattle around in your brain again. Getting them to leave isn’t easy and it usually takes a few days just to clear them out. My experience is about 2-3 days before I am not thinking about “work related” subject matter and can enjoy wherever I am and whom I’m with. According to several people I have talked to, I’m probably about average; hence the reason for a vacation of at least a week away from it all and why a weekend just doesn’t cut it. You need the time to “reboot.”
I love my work. I don’t need to leave.
Another reason for at least a week is to allow some “new” stuff to enter into your brain. Once you have purged your brain or untangled your mind from all the previous stuff you have been working on, you can now start to think about things in a different light. A hobby you are interested in, or a little home project to do with your spouse, or something to do with your kids. All the things you have pushed off to the side because work absorbed all your time. When you find out how much fun you are really having, perhaps you might think about when and where you will go on your next vacation.
By the way, some of your greatest ideas come to you when you are relaxed, content, and at peace. Unless I miss my guess, that’s not typically the environment you enjoy at work.
I’ll be able to balance things better – soon.
You knew this one was coming, and for good reason. Work/life balance is essential now, not later.
We spend a lot of time at work and sometimes we have a tendency to “bring it home” with us. When we do that we steal time away from everything else and our private life and family take the brunt of that decision. I use that word “decision” with purpose, because it is just that. We can also make the decision to separate our work from our life if we want. Taking a vacation is a decision. It’s deciding to purposefully spend time with those we care about, including yourself.
To help you get the big picture here, think about this: You can basically break your life into two spheres. One is your professional life and the second is your personal life. More than likely, one day you will not be involved with a professional life. You will retire, or quit, or simply stop working – call it what you will, but “the job” will no longer be a part of your life. It will be behind you. The question is, “Have you been putting as much time, effort, and energy into your private life as you have your professional life?” Because now, you only have your personal life left. What is there? What’s left? Do you have a spouse you truly recognize and know? Do you have your kids close? A circle of friends you are comfortable with? There are more questions to ask, but in the simplest of terms, are you prepared for “no more work?”
The life you will spend in retirement starts to form right now. Vacations and time with family and friends should start right now. You can’t cram it all in at the end like some college exam.
Think about this, your company is paying you NOT to work, so it must be important. When you were hired they told how much you would get paid as well as how many days off you would get. There is a reason for that. They want you to take some time off so you can remain the better version of yourself.
So, are you going to start using some of that vacation time, or not? It’s a simple “yes or no” answer.