Why Do We Take Vacation?

In his 2017 Forbes.com article,  “Take a 30-Day Money Vacation,” Michael Kay asks why we take vacation. The answers differ by person, but 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 as a whole take fewer vacation days than most other developed countries. Only 25% of Americans even take their full allotment of vacation, according to one survey.

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?

The ideal might be to 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.

Have you ever heard 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.

Plan vacation first. Take a hard look at what work tasks are necessary. Automate, delegate, or eliminate the others. With this recipe, we just might become more productive, and actually get to enjoy the rest and relaxation from longer vacations, too.

What’s your best vacation and work strategy? Leave a comment here.

Holly Donaldson

Holly Donaldson, CFP® runs an hourly and fee-for-service financial planning practice virtually from her Tampa Bay, Florida office. She also works with clients throughout the U.S. (except Texas) interested in retirement and tax planning advice without product sales or investment management. Holly is the author of The Mindful Money Mentality: How to Find Balance in Your Financial Future (Porchview Publishing, 2013) and publisher of the award-winning monthly e-letter, "The View From the Porch."

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