We need to seriously talk about you taking a vacation

Take A Vacation You Overworked Mess

In 2014, Americans left about 430 million vacation days on the table. For context on that, let’s assume a workday is 10 hours. That means 4.3 billion hours were left on the table, basically. You could drive from New York City to Boston 1.07 billion times in the hours we left on the table last year. What the ever-loving shit? Take a vacation. Seriously.

The biggest reason cited for lack of vacation is “so much to do” (Guess what? The work will be there when you get back, too) or “can’t spare the time right now because of ongoing projects” (a variation of Reason 1) or “I’m afraid someone will jump me on the ladder” (that’s a compelling fear in a less-than-stellar job market, sure, but if you work at a place where taking one week to yourself knocks you down the hierarchy, that doesn’t seem like maybe the greatest place to be spending 1/3rd of your day).

I just took a vacation, and — to the best of my knowledge at this moment — I didn’t get fired or fall down the hierarchy. Thing is, I’m a generic rank-and-file employee for the most part. I’m not slugging at the heavyweight level professionally, so who cares what happened to me after I left for a week?

But what I did — i.e. take a vacation — can work at a more extreme level for more successful people, and here’s how.

Meet Brad Feld. Dude has his own Wikipedia, so you know he’s legit somewhat. He’s a VC/investor, and also writes for Fast Company and generally seems like a smart, well-connected dude.

Guess what? Last year, he took 1 month off. Not 1 week, yo. 1 month.

Here’s his breakdown of it:

I find it incomprehensible that I’ve never taken a break like this before. Given my comfort with one week off-the-grid vacations, it was easy to just disconnect and leave everything in my partners’ hands. I trust them completely and having already been through the one month off cycle with each of them earlier in the year, I knew that whenever something came up, good decisions would be made and things would be handled.

As a result, I feel like I’ve completely reset my brain. I read what I wanted – I had over 200 books on my Kindle – so I just picked randomly when I didn’t have “next book” in mind. Some of the business books were skimmers and I only dropped out of one fiction book a quarter way through because I lost interest. The rest was like being transported to the magical reading planet.

If you analyze that section, here’s what you get:

  • Part of the reason he was able to take a month off was because he has trust in his co-workers/partners. (That might be a challenge for some, especially more “maximizer” managers.)
  • He felt like the experience “completely reset his brain.” (In a non-science fiction way, that seems pretty cool, right?)
  • He referred to it as a “magical reading planet.” When’s the last time you used “magical” to describe an aspect of work?

Your job is largely a means to an end in some respects, but most jobs allow you (or entitle you?) to take some time off and recharge yourself. It’s the bigger equivalent of taking a walk once in a while. It clears your mind and probably ends up making your work better.

So seriously — put aside all the excuses, because the excuses will always be there. Just do it. It doesn’t have to be Bora Bora for a month (we’re not all at Mr. Feld’s level, yes), but it can even be one state over for four days. Just do something.

Ted Bauer

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