In his 2017 Forbes.com article, “Take a 30-Day Money Vacation,” Michael Kay asks why we take vacation. The answers differ by person. Common reasons he cites are, “To change the scenery, rest, recharge our batteries, experience a change from our routine, allow our bodies and minds to relax and, as Stephen Covey says, to sharpen the saw.”
The U.S. is one of the few countries where employers are not expected or required to provide paid vacations. Americans take fewer vacation days than citizens of most other developed countries. Only 25% of Americans even take their full allotment of vacation, according to one survey.
Longer Vacations = More Productivity, More Stress
In the Harvard Business Review in 2015, Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman found that longer vacations led European managers to be more efficient and productive at work, but, because the work didn’t go anywhere while they were gone, they experienced corresponding increases in personal stress.
So…if we take more vacation, only to return to piled-up work that causes more stress, was the vacation worth it? Maybe the 75% of Americans who are not taking their full allotment are wise – spreading out the work over more days, so less stressed. Which is better?
Perhaps we could take a harder look at how much of the work we do is really necessary. In the 4-Hour Work Week, Tim Ferriss recounts how he automated, delegated, and eliminated enough work to pursue his passions and travel on a full-time basis. Email, browsing social media posts (ahem, like the one you are reading), and scheduling meetings were among his first targets of attack.
For instance, have you ever heard of the rocks-in-the-jar analogy? Imagine you have big rocks and little rocks to put in a jar. If you fit the big rocks in first, the little ones can be filled in around them, but the reverse is a lot harder. If we make vacation one of the big rocks that we place in our jar first, say by carving out the days on the calendar way in advance, the little rocks, like mundane work tasks, will naturally fill in around them. Having fewer little rocks helps, too.
Make Vacation the Big Rock
Plan vacation first. Be strict about which work tasks are necessary. Automate, delegate, or eliminate the others. With this recipe, we might become more productive while enjoying longer vacations, too.
What’s your best vacation and work strategy? Leave a comment here.