I have a confession to make – taking vacations used to make me feel guilty. Particularly as I was climbing the corporate ladder in my twenties and early thirties, and then running my own PR agency in the mid aughts. I hated the thought of missing important developments despite email and text connectivity, worried about leaving my staff overloaded and pretty much sucked at resting overall. Sound familiar? If it does, consider that research now proves taking regular vacations can bolster your career.
In this Harvard Business Review article called “The Data-Driven Case for Vacation,” authors Shawn Achor and Michelle Gielan note that you are 30% more likely to receive a raise or bonus if you take at least 11 days of your vacation each year. They wrote, “People who took fewer than 10 of their vacation days per year had a 34.6% likelihood of receiving a raise or bonus in a three-year period of time. People who took more than 10 of their vacation days had a 65.4% chance of receiving a raise or bonus.”
Hey, I’m a big believer in vacations these days. My mindset started to change as I began taking an annual Girl’s Trip to a spa nearly a decade ago and found myself transforming from the brink of burnout to ready to conquer the world. Just returned recently from a fantastic, 11-day adventure exploring Berlin, Prague and Amsterdam with my hubby. Even when we’re constantly on-the-go, taking time away truly lets me rest, recalibrate and come back to my job with greater focus and happiness. However, not all vacations are created equal. Spending time crunched with the kids in the spare room of your in-laws’ home for five days, or hitting an exciting destination but scrambling to find things to do at the last minute can spike more stress than relaxation. Here are four ways to help you plan the most effective vacation for your needs:
1) Leverage your strengths. What skills help you crush it at work? Perhaps you are you amazing at project plans, excel at spreadsheets, influence effectively through people or see the big picture with ease? (BTW, check out the great book StrengthFinders 2.0 to learn more about your true strengths and how leaning into these can help you thrive.) Now apply those talents to plan a great vacation. For example, if your job involves planning meetings, take that same template – picking destination, setting up room logistics, thinking about experiences – to ensure your time off runs as smoothly as a corporate event. Traveling with a partner or other family members? Be sure to delegate tasks for them to handle, like buying tickets to a bike tour or water park, to create a sense of ownership.
2) Decide what kind of vacation would benefit you the most. Have you been working non-stop for months on an exhausting ERP Implementation launch and now crave a beach trip where resort staff brings you drinks bearing festive umbrellas? Want more quality time with your kids exploring a new city? Need time away by yourself to recharge, or want to reconnect with your partner on a romantic trip? Consider the overall theme of what you need and then choose the best destination and experiences to match that vision. Just remember, avoid picking up cursed tiki idols on the beach during a family vacation to Hawaii like the Brady Bunch did (yes, reruns of classic TV shows from my childhood continue to shape my worldview.)
3) Plan ahead. The whole process of vacation starts once you calendarize the dates and commit to leaving, whether it is nine months or nine days in advance. Research what you’d like to do in order to build your budget and deadlines. When planning our visit to Amsterdam, my husband learned that we had a narrow window of time about a month before our arrival to purchase tickets to the Anne Frank House. You couldn’t buy them way in advance, but they sold out quickly after the availability date opened. He watched that window like a hawk, got the tickets and it was a truly incredible experience. Research reviews of tours, experiences, theme parks, restaurants and accommodations to leverage advice from other travelers. Remind your boss and co-workers frequently about your absence, planning ahead to have your work responsibilities covered. If you still need to check in with the office while away, ensure your smart phone plan and internet connectivity work as desired. While nothing ever goes completely as planned, making this advance effort helps limit stress during your time off.
4) Allow time for re-entry. Coming back into town late on a Sunday night and jumping back full-force into work intensity the next morning can kill your positive vacation buzz like a cheap tequila hangover. If possible, allow for enough time to slowly re-enter your normal routine. When returning from international trips, we try to build in an extra day to adjust back to your time zone, restock groceries and run errands before heading back to the office. Also, consider scheduling your next vacation upon return so there is always something on the horizon to look forward to when work stress escalates.
What kind of vacations do you prefer? How does that time off impact your performance at work?