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Winding Down to Power Up

handsome young man relaxing and working on laptop computer at home balcony while looking sunset

According to Marketwatch1, the average U.S. employee who receives paid vacation has only taken about half (54 percent) of those days in the past 12 months. Additionally, another challenge – new to the digital age – is the number of people who take their vacation time but continue to work, checking emails, voicemails, etc. This is surprising because research actually shows that more time working does not mean more productivity and effectiveness. In fact, an inability to wind down and disconnect can affect our creativity, effectiveness, relationships and overall well-being:

“Downtime replenishes the brain’s stores of attention and motivation, encourages productivity and creativity, and is essential to both achieve our highest levels of performance and simply form stable memories in everyday life. A wandering mind unsticks us in time so that we can learn from the past and plan for the future. Moments of respite may even be necessary to keep one’s moral compass in working order and maintain a sense of self.”2

What did we do in the past (and not that long ago – I am not that old!) when we did not have a way to connect with work on vacation? I’m not altogether sure, but I do know that clients, co-workers, and business went on and our jobs and careers somehow survived. In fact, they often thrived upon our return.

Coming off some vacation days this summer has made me realize why it is so important to take a day off, and to totally disconnect. It was an effort to not taskmaster my vacation days, meaning I did not push myself on how much I was going to read or what house project I was going to get done. I just went with the flow and created some down time – time I used to be present with my family. I felt more refreshed by creating space for idle time and connections with my relationships.

And truth be told, I really enjoy the feeling of knocking to-dos off my task list and getting a lot done right before I leave for a few days off, allowing me to return to work with more clear thoughts and ideas. Time off is what helps us become more efficient. Research says that like studying, the more time you throw at something does not make you more knowledgeable, more productive, more creative, or more effective.

Don’t we want to be more effective, creative and productive? Take your vacation days, make part of your weekends “staycations” and create some down time or idle time. Remember the house chores and laundry can wait. They’ll be there tomorrow. Think instead about how you can disconnect on vacation. What benefits await you … and your job?

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