The Power of Time Off: Why Vacations Are Essential

Last week, for the first time since I started my own business, I took a real vacation. I let my clients know a month in advance, put up an away message, and stepped away from my projects. I then spent four luxurious days lounging at the beach — and it was exactly what I needed. I felt the power of time off in a tangible way, coming home refreshed, with great ideas and a rested body.

As a frequent writer on the topic, I know why we love vacations. All the fun and games adds up to something we desperately need: a break from the grind. Without regular vacations, it’s impossible for us to enjoy work, let alone succeed at it. But even knowing that information, why was I so resistant to step away?

Culture Gap

The fact is, paid vacation time is simply not an established part of our culture. Forbes details how the United States is the only advanced economy in the world that doesn’t require companies to offer paid time off. Plus, most people don’t use all their vacation time: A 2013 survey by Expedia, for example, revealed that Americans left an average of four vacation days on the table per year.

Our 24/7 work culture can have a serious impact on well-being if we don’t find time to unplug. One study from the Wisconsin Medical Journal found that the surveyed women who rarely went on vacation were more likely to experience depression and unmanageable stress than their vacationing counterparts. And research conducted in Current Directions of Psychological Science found that teachers felt rested and more engaged at work after vacations. Breaks from work have even been found to have a physiological impact, making a difference in our overall health, as well.

Finding the Right Balance

Judging from the research, regular vacationing is a compelling aspect of a balanced life. As Greg McKeown summarizes in his new book “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less,” “The best asset we have for making a contribution to the world is ourselves. If we under-invest in ourselves, and by that I mean our minds, our bodies, and our spirits, we damage the very tool we need to make our highest contribution.”

Next time you think that your vacation time is negotiable, dig a little deeper. Are you protecting yourself, valuing the role of rest, and embracing the power of time off? In the end, no work email is more important than your personal and professional well-being, both of which rest on your willingness to maintain a healthy work-life balance.

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