“The time to relax is when you don’t have time for it.”
-Sydney J. Harris
Psssst! We need to talk. You may not like what I’m about to say, but pay attention anyway because it’s important. Ready? Here goes … You. Need. A VACATION. I won’t say that you deserve it (although I’m betting you do), because saying you “deserve” it makes it sound like some kind of luxury. As if it were optional. Is productivity in your work optional? How about creativity? And staying healthy so you can show up for your life/work/spouse/kids? If you answered no to any of these questions, then it’s time for you to stop looking at vacation as a frivolous indulgence and start seeing it for what it truly is: an absolute necessity.
Don’t believe me? Maybe you would believe my wise old friend, Google. At my last count, googling “benefits of taking vacation” returned more than 50 million results. The last thing your vacation-deprived brain needs to do is sift through that colossal mountain of research, so I’ve taken the liberty of compiling some of the highlights (piece of cake for me, since I’ve been a committed vacationer for years. Ha!). Taking regular vacations will reduce your stress level, improve your mental health, improve your relationships, increase your productivity, boost your creativity, and give you more energy. And if those reasons aren’t compelling enough, maybe this one is: data from the famed Framingham Heart Study showed that women who take two or more vacations per year were eight times less likely to have coronary heart disease. As for men? Those who skipped annual vacations were 32% more likely to die from a heart attack.
Clearly, we all need to make taking vacations a priority. So why haven’t you done it? Let me guess … you’re too busy/important/tired/indecisive/repulsed by drinks with tiny umbrellas in them. I hear you. But you know what? I bet Marissa Mayer (CEO and President of Yahoo! Inc.) is pretty busy, too. And surely Richard Branson is very important. You know where I’m going with this, right? These folks are squeezing in a few vacations every year, and so can you. Who knows? It might even be the secret to their (and your!) success.
Now that you've decided you owe it to yourself, your business, your family, and your heart to take the breaks that you need, I just have to make one thing clear. When I say vacation, I mean VACATION. I’m not talking about hiding from your kids in the closet with a candy bar once a month or taking an extra 3 minutes in the shower to enjoy a glass (bottle, box, what-have-you) of wine. I mean real, actual, honest-to-goodness, week-long, toes-in-the-sand, swaying-hammock, no-shower-today, 50-shades-of-trashy-novel-reading time away from it all. And not just once, but multiple times! Every year!! No cheating. It need not be extravagant, but it must be relaxing. You would never expect your laptop to fully recharge in 10 minutes - don’t expect your mind, body and soul to either.
Ready for take-off? Here’s how to make it happen:
FIND THE TIME. If you can’t find it, MAKE it. Take a hard look at your calendar and figure out when your business (or busy-ness) might have a lull. Can you plan a time to slow things down? Maybe create a pause between projects??
BOOK WELL IN ADVANCE. There are so many reasons to do this — you’ll enjoy maximum availability wherever you decide to go, have your pick of the seats on the plane (leave that middle seat back by the lavatories and screaming triplets for the procrastinators!), and reap the substantial rewards of having a lovely holiday to look forward to. Talk to friends about your upcoming trip, read up on the area you plan to visit, look at photos of the resort online. Start drinking in that sweet, sweet vacation nectar long before you take your first breath of salty ocean air.
PREPARE CLIENTS/COWORKERS/EMPLOYEES FOR YOUR ABSENCE. This one is particularly important for business owners. Let your clients know when you’ll be out-of-pocket and for how long. Arrange to have someone fill in for you to take care of anything urgent that can’t wait until your return and/or give a trusted colleague your contact info so you can be reached (but only in the event of an actual emergency). This will give you peace of mind and the opportunity to ensure everyone’s needs are met while also setting boundaries/expectations so they know that you are taking your vacation time seriously. They’ll be thrilled when you return rested, refreshed and ready to conquer the world.
That’s it! Now sit back, relax, and thrive.