Friday, March 27, 2015

Vacation Day

By English: U.S. Department of the Interior,
Office of Insular Affairs 日本語: アメリカ合衆国内務省島嶼局
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Today's a vacation day for me. Although I wish that I could say I was relaxing on a beach that looks something like the one in the picture here, today is not one of those kinds of vacation days. Perhaps it is more of a "staycation" day as I plan to spend it at home.
Americans have, in recent years, been flagged as taking fewer and fewer vacation days. This article on MarketWatch indicates that in general, Americans only take about half of their allocated vacation days. And there is a whole initiative driven by the travel industry to study the effects of unused vacation on the economy. Their study said more than four of ten people left vacation days on the table, resulting in 429 million unused vacation days in 2013.

That is a lot of beach time, or even stay at home time, unused.
For me, my vacation time is often booked up, clearing up to do lists around the house, doing yardwork, or even playing golf or doing something fun that then takes up the day. Rarely do I just sit on the couch and waste a day away (though I have done that, one, too). Still, there is a huge importance to taking these days.
The studies above would tell you that most Americans feel they can't miss a day of work because they will get further behind, they will have perceptions of being a slacker, or they will just end up working on their day off anyway. I would offer a counter-opinion.
If you never take a day off (even to just do chores around the house), you will end up burned out at work, blaming your job for never getting anything done outside of work, less enthusiastic about making a difference at the office, working with lower energy, feeling locked in the "rat race" with no ability to enjoy the fruits of your labor. And at the end of the year, you'll either try to take lots of vacation at once or just turn that excess in.
For me, even if I just take the day to do some writing or knock out chores around the house, I'll return to work Monday feeling more accomplished, with a shorter to do list at home looming over my head, and refreshed and recharged to get back to work. And, let's be honest, I'll build in some total time-wasting slack time today, too, to help reduce stress and relax. If I return to an extra four hundred emails in my Inbox? I can likely process those in quick succession if I dedicate some time to it, or I can chunk away at it in pieces without feeling like it controls me.
So go ahead, if you have paid time off, use some of it. Every now and then. Your work will be better for it.