Having just returned from a long postponed vacation, we took particular interest in an article about Americans and vacation time. According to projectimeoff.com, American workers left 658 million vacation days unused in 2016, up 53% from 2015. Reasons stated for not taking vacation included 'a mountain of work', 'no one else can do the job', and 'can't afford to take vacation.'
We can empathize with this reasoning because we all feel a commitment to work, hate the idea of taking time off only to be faced with the dreaded backlog of work that we need to catch up on when we return. Similarly, we can convince ourselves that we are essential to the success of the organization and no one else can do our job. Finally, we simply can't afford a vacation, they can be expensive and the money may be better budgeted elsewhere, especially if we have children.
As much as we hate the idea of facing a backlog of work when we return, the work remains. We are not machines, and even machines break down or are taken out of service for preventive maintenance. We convince ourselves that we are indispensable, an essential part of the success of the organization.
Yet everyday, people leave organizations and the organizations continue functioning, sometimes better, sometimes worse for a while, yet they still continue to function. Microsoft and Apple function without Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. Chances are that our organizations can replace us as well. Finally, vacations can be expensive. However, we have even coined a word earlier in this century, staycation, a blend of stay and vacation. The Oxford dictionary defines staycation as “a holiday spent in one's home country rather than abroad, or one spent at home and involving day trips to local attractions.” We might broaden that definition to include down time away from work.
So rather than view vacations as some needless luxury, perhaps we need to recognize vacations as down time for personal maintenance. Why is personal maintenance so important? Consider the following:
- If we care for ourselves, we can give our best to those we care about.
- If we care for ourselves, we set a positive example for those we care about.
- Caring for ourselves does NOT mean that we take away from those we care about. It isn’t a zero sum game.
- Caring for ourselves includes a healthy lifestyle.
- Our physical health benefits from personal maintenance.
- Our emotional health benefits from personal maintenance.
- We facilitate a healthy relationship with ourselves.
- We facilitate a healthy relationships with others.
Our clients often describe their ultimate goals in terms of knowing their authentic self, their passion and purpose in life, and to assume personal responsibility in their life choices. That is a lot to discover and probably won't be accomplished in a single vacation, but a vacation, down time from the stresses and demands of work can help. What helps this process is to not wait for a vacation. We can fill our lives with mini-vacations.
A mini-vacation is something we can do for ourselves. We can express gratitude, indulge ourselves in some small way, experience something that makes us happy, do something healthy and finally, congratulate ourselves for continuing our efforts and do it again! We want to make these mini-vacations a part of our life, a part of our daily routine. Fortunately, there are things we can do to help make mini-vacations a positive habit. We can:
- Make a list and cross things off so we can organize our day and see that we are accomplishing the important things in our life.
- Set your alarm 10 minutes early and use that time to center yourself by meditating, do yoga, or having coffee or tea by yourself.
- Journal – writing a journal by hand allows us to express ourselves and center ourselves. Keeping a journal gives us time to reflect on the good things in our life and the good choices we make.
- Plan out your week. Schedule your week including workouts and anything else.
The important thing to remember is that SOMETIMES ACTION PRECEDES UNDERSTANDNG. So let us act to create these mini-vacations and fill our life with these vacation times. We will be better for it because we have done some personal maintenance. The important people in our lives will be grateful for having done so.