“Orlando, eh? Are you going to Disney?”
Two weeks ago, this was everyone’s question. With a Thursday night departure from Toronto, I’d be spending the next few days down south. The question makes sense, Disney is a pretty big deal, but I’d be far too busy monitoring Slack, checking my email, and stressing about everything I’d have to do next week. I’d love to rub elbows with my favourite Disney princesses, but you can only fit so much into a vacation.
Maybe that doesn’t sound like a holiday, but I assure you, it was. I was in a bathing suit, I drank drinks I’d never order in Canada, and I got a sunburn. I booked a plane, it got delayed, and the food wasn’t good. If that isn’t a vacation, I don’t know what is.
I’m not a workaholic, I’m just vacation-averse. When they happen, they’re short and sweet and usually a little forced.
I’m not alone on this, either. There are plenty of people like me. We don’t spam your Facebook feed with #takemeback pics or blogs about wanderlust, but we do exist. We take vacation because we have to — not in some hippie existential way, either.
Sound familiar? If so, keep reading to learn how you can silence the demands to take vacation — without really taking vacation.
I know, I know, time off is good
Before I go slandering vacation, I have to be objective and point out some apparent benefits:
- People who work over 55 hours per week are 33% more likely to suffer a stroke and 13% more likely to have a heart attack.
- People who go 5 years without vacation are 30% more likely to have a heart attack than those who take time off.
- Vacation improves your sleep cycle, leading to 20 extra minutes of deep sleep each night.
- Vacation can improve your reaction time by 30-40%.
- Stress reduction, along with the other benefits of vacation, can be experienced for 5 weeks post-vacay.
- Taking vacation improves your productivity, as it forces you to be more focused and efficient with your desk time.
Studies have shown there are definite physical and mental benefits to taking time off, but come on, some of these are pretty weak. Of course I’ll be more productive, I’ll have the same amount of work and half the time to do it. It doesn’t just disappear because I have plans. Sure, my coworkers can cover for me, but I can’t relax knowing my pina colada is at their expense. To me, that’s stressful — the very symptom vacation relieves.
I’m ranting now. Heart attacks are bad and holidays are good yadda yadda you need to take time off.
With that out of the way, here are some hacks for your next forced vacation:
2 weeks vacation or 10 long weekends?
If you can’t bear to be away for weeks at a time, divvy up your vacation days into long weekends. With this strategy, you save yourself from falling behind and having to play catch-up.
My least favourite part of vacation is losing the momentum I built up prior to leaving. After a week of poolside bingo, you drop down to 0mph and it can take days to accelerate back up to speed. By breaking your vacation up into long weekends, you avoid the holiday-hangover and maintain your high frequency.
Marketer by day, hustler by night
No surprise, but some people hate vacation because they love working. While I consider myself one of those people, you won’t find me jonesing for Monday morning.
In this case, “work” is a broad term. Maybe you’re all about productivity and crossing things off lists, whether it’s yard work, homework, or work work. Maybe you have a side hustle or a rigorous workout routine. For me, I have a few productive hobbies that get neglected when I’m worn down from the 9-5.
If you hate vacation because you love work, book yourself a staycation and get back to your personal projects. Lock yourself in your room and get that thing off the ground. Start that blog or open that online store. Work is work. It leads to growth. It leads to development — development can elevate you in your career.
Who has time to go to the bank?
Recently, I had a cheque expire because I couldn’t find time to go to the bank. 9am – 4pm Monday to Friday? I’m sorry, BMO, but I have a job.
Instead of taking two weeks, book a monthly “personal administration” day to tackle life’s monotonous tasks. Hit the DMV, file your taxes, call Bell, get fed up and switch to Rogers. Clear your personal to-do list so you can spend your weeknights winding down and your weekends recharging.
Time to reload
There’s hating vacation and then there’s being stupid. If December hits and you have two weeks that won’t roll over to next year, it’s time to suck it up and take time off.
The key to a long vacation is preparation. Outside of the sunscreen and swimwear, you’ll want to pack books, download podcasts, and grab a notebook for jotting down ideas. For my trip to Orlando, I reread Yes by Robert Cialdini, picked up Freakanomics from a thrift store, and took down some marketing podcasts on the flight.
Staying on top of these resources can be exhausting, especially when you spend eight hours a day practicing what they preach. Stepping out of the office and onto a beach provides the perfect setting to stop doing and get back to learning.
Travelling isn’t for everyone
To be clear, I’m pro vacation. I think people deserve them and I think all companies should provide them. That said, I don’t think three weeks in Thailand will somehow improve my career. I don’t think a language barrier with my Guatemalan waitress will translate to success in the board room. Travelling is fine, but it’s not for everyone.
Neither is a productive vacation, but that doesn’t make me irresponsible for taking one. Skipping vacation shouldn’t be seen as reckless. Stats aside, you’re not risking a heart attack by taking two days instead of five. We’re all adults. We should all be trusted to balance our workloads. We should all be trusted to monitor our stress levels. And we should be trusted to use our vacation days however we want.