In this guest post, Nigel Dessau, founder of The 3 Minute Mentor, explains why you should take a proper vacation - getting some quality time away from the workplace can help you to reduce stress and improve your productivity.
Nigel is also the subject of an Expert Interview, about his recent book, "Become a 21st Century Executive: Breaking Away from the Pack."
In our non-stop, always on, 24x7, connected world, vacation can increase the stress we are trying to reduce. Have you seen people coming back from a break more tired than when they went out? Here are five things to consider to stop this.
Don't Just Do Long Weekends
To save vacation days, we take long weekends. The problem with this approach is that people often do not actually get a vacation.
First off, the chances are everyone else is trying to do the same thing. This makes the roads busy, the flights expensive, and the resorts full. That's just hassle and cost. Secondly, my experience is that it takes at least a day to relax and a day to get ready to come home and, with two travel days, that means no actual real vacation!
So, while just taking a long weekend seems like a good use of time, it may not be. Make sure you take at least a whole week off sometime in the year.
Enjoy the Planning
Are you a detailed, organized planner who researches lots of options, or do you like to just turn up and see what happens? If you are the second then you should be aware of a study, published in the journal Applied Research in Quality of Life, that showed that the largest boost in happiness comes from the simple act of planning a vacation.
In the study, the effect of vacation anticipation boosted happiness for eight weeks. So discussing what you will do and who wants to do it can add to the anticipation.
Don't Build in Hassle
It is hard to think about no hassle and transportation at the same time. Few airports, train stations or highways are fun any more. With this is mind, be willing to swap a little money, if you can, for an easier life. Now, I know some will say that they would rather save every dollar on the travel to buy a few extra beers. OK, we all need to make choices. My only point is that pain and hassle reduce vacation pleasure – maybe more than a beer can fix.
Limit Your Connected Time
My wife and I recently came back from a cruise. Most cruise ships have Internet access, and you buy access by the minute. On our cruise, we each got 250 minutes of time. Could we survive on four hours over 10 days?
Two things you notice. First is how much rubbish you have been putting up with in your mailbox. When each email takes 30 seconds to open, you start to rethink what the meaning of junk is. The second thing that hits you is how little of your email really needs to be answered there and then. What seems urgent can really wait a few days.
End Your Vacation Right
In a Wall Street Journal article called The Smartest Way to Take a Vacation, writer Sumathi Reddy suggests that you "end vacations with a bang."
"A bang" will be different for each of us. Maybe it's a meal at a special restaurant. Could be a great bottle of wine. Possibly, it's treating yourself to a business class seat on the way home. Whatever it is, plan it so you can look forward to it, and then enjoy it.
A study showed that Americans throw away an estimated 415 million vacation days every year. That's 1.6 million years of unused vacation! I am sure you think that your employer is very grateful, but, in the long run, this is bad for you and for them. Life is too short not to take vacation and work is too hard not to enjoy them when you do.