Last year, Forbes published an article declaring that America has become the "No-Vacation Nation." Studies showed that in 2017, 47 percent of Americans didn't take a vacation and a further 21 percent left five or more vacation days on the table.
The factors that contribute to this phenomenon are complex: ranging from guilt-tripping bosses and the inescapable crunch of deadlines to feelings of self-sabotage and the inability to unplug in our tech-driven world.
It's harder and harder for those of us in the working world to take a true vacation from the stresses and pressures of daily life.
However, we know that vacations are necessary. Taking a vacation, according to Allina Health, can result in:
Reduced chance of burnout
Improved familiar relationships
Improved physical and mental health
Increased mental clarity
Improved outlook and happiness
Overall improvement to well-being
We know, then, that taking time for ourselves is crucial. But we also know that it is often easier said than done. Pulling away from your work can be a challenge: that's why I'm here with tips that will help you enjoy your vacation by taking preemptive action to ensure that you can.
5 Steps to Truly Enjoying Your Vacation Time
1) Plan far in advance.
If there's one thing I can recommend, it is to carve out your vacation days as early as possible. This way, not only will your boss and colleagues have it on their calendars for months in advance, but it won't feel like a spur-of-the-moment situation. Because you have given advance notice, this provides plenty of buffer to prepare appropriately.
What do those preparations look like? It may be you, working harder in the weeks leading up to your vacation so that you feel your tasks are under control. It may be working with your boss or management team to ensure that no gaps are left while you're out-of-the-office.
Being proactive in planning not only your vacation but your absence from the office will show that you are still diligent and mindful of your work obligations. If you do what you can to prepare and communicate, it shows dedication—not a lack thereof.
2) Delegate tasks.
If you have a big deadline or important project due, it can be tough to feel like you can afford to take any vacation days. For us, it's valuable to delegate these critical tasks in our stead. Talk with your team and coworkers to see what has to be covered in your absence and what will be fine until you return.
Delegate the critical tasks and don't worry so much about the rest.
3) Truly unplug.
Unplugging in this day and age can feel like an impossibility. While you're not expected to use zero technology on your vacation, it's important that you unplug from work and even from your industry. Turn off notifications for your work e-mail or log out of it entirely. Delete the apps for any social media account that you monitor or manage for the office.
You have to make a conscious effort not to deal with your work obligations during this time. Set up an auto-email response. Change your voicemail to declare that you are on vacation and will be back on Monday.
The less you check and mind your devices, the easier it is to let the bustle and stress of work fade into the background. The last thing you want to experience on vacation is FMO in the office.
4) Reorient your priorities.
Studies show that we can often be plagued with guilt around taking a vacation. Whether our bosses pressure us not to go, we feel our performance somehow hasn't justified time off, or we simply feel overwhelmed by all there is to do, we must reorient our priorities.
Instead of relying on the exhausting drive to compete and achieve, recognize the critical role a vacation plays in enabling you to achieve your goals.
The mental and physical health benefits, the clarity of mind, and the lack of burnout that result from a well-spent vacation mean that you will return better equipped to do your job to the best of your ability.
5) Make a game plan.
Notifying your company as early as possible about an intended vacation is important. To be most effective, however, you need a game plan not just for the office, but for your vacation itself. It can be stressful to go on an unplanned vacation or an over-planned vacation.
Look at your destination on an app like TripAdvisor to plan your meals and recreation. You may find there's too much to do and see on your trip (thus forcing you to prioritize what you really want to see), or there's not enough. In that case, your mindset may need to change. Instead of trying to cram in everything you can see and do, focus on really relaxing by your own schedule.
We live in a culture that deters taking time away from the office. Many of us feel guilty for even taking a day or two off. However, we must recognize the immense long-term benefits of taking time off. Your vacation is something you need—so allow yourself to have it.
Have you ever felt ashamed or guilty for taking a vacation? Tell me how you overcame those feelings in the comments.