The Case for Vacation

Are you hesitant to take time off? Do you find yourself working while on vacation? Taking time “out of the business” is essential to personal refreshment and energy restoration. And just as important, reluctance to step away does a disservice to development of our employees and teams. In this episode, Ralph and Bill discuss the downside of the “productivity mindset,” and challenge listeners to personal reflection and to try an experiment that can increase productivity without sacrificing critical time for rejuvenation.


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*Note: The following text is the output of transcribing from an audio recording. Although the transcription is largely accurate, in some cases may be incomplete or inaccurate due to inaudible passages or transcription errors


Bill Berthel: Welcome to the Get Emergent Podcast, where we discuss leadership, team and organizational topics and best practices. We like to provide ideas, concepts, and pragmatic experiments to help you develop your potential in your work and leadership. I’m Bill Berthel.

Ralph Simone: I’m Ralph Simone

Bill Berthel: So Ralph. We’ve got a great timely topic, I think for today.

The case for vacation, for taking vacation, the suitcase. Yeah. Well you need that too, but I think we’re gonna make a different case.

Ralph Simone: Yeah. Well, I think we’re recording this podcast during the summer when it’s not the only time to take vacation, but many families do take time off, particularly in the part of the country that we live in the northeast, because it’s beautiful up here.

Bill Berthel: Beautiful kids are off of school. If you have a teacher in the family, teachers have off too. So summertime seems to be vacation time, but to your point, there’s absolutely time in other seasons to be working. To be out of the business to take some time.

Ralph Simone: It’s amazing though. I have been surprised at why this topic keeps coming up over and over again.

You know, we were doing a session with team leaders in an organization just two weeks ago. Mm-hmm. And one of the things the person wanted to learn is how they could take a day off, not a week off. We’re making the case for, you know, PTO and vacation that goes beyond one day, but just a single day off.

Bill Berthel: They asked for that. That was the request to learn how to do that.

Ralph Simone: Yeah. And, and I said, well, first of all, you know, we’re gonna talk about work life integration. We’re gonna talk about these three buckets that we often talk about working in the business, on the business and out of the business.

And how it’s good for not only your peace and well-being but productivity to take a certain amount of time outside the business.

Bill Berthel: Yeah, absolutely. What an important question that person asked of you, right? That there’s a message behind that that suggests they’re really challenged to get away. They’re really challenged to make that work.

Ralph Simone: I, I was hard-pressed to hang in there to acknowledge and validate it because it’s so far a field from how we approach it. You know, this is our, my 32nd year in business and I have been six weeks out of the business each of those years. And you know, sometimes that’s a week of continuing education that’s not, I’m not going away all six weeks, but we operate really on a 46-week year and we value the re-energizing and the new perspectives that come from pto in time traveling and time spent outside, we value it a lot.

Bill Berthel: Absolutely. As much as we enjoy our work and some days to call it work is a stretch that it’s truly enjoyable. There’s great value in being away from that as well. You know, mine personally didn’t start there.

I think, you know, the, maybe the narratives around time off. It is interesting to look at. Very early in my career, I saw it as leaving money on the table. You know, I got so much pto. I’ve always been pretty good about taking the majority of the time off that was available to me and whatever organizations I was in.

But the first narrative was, why am I leaving that money on the table? Not, not a bad motive to get your butt out of the workplace and into a vacation, but I needed a different shift, so it was healthier for myself. I really needed to see that. I was worthy of that time off, the investment of that time for my own restoration, my own restart, refreshing, and I recommitted to the work so much better when I came back.

Ralph Simone: You know, Cheryl Richardson, who was a life coach and has written a couple of books, talked about this concept of healthy selfishness. And we often talk about leadership as an energetic activity. And we need to constantly be restoring our energy in four areas in order to lead ourselves and others to levels of effectiveness.

And so that means time out of the business. So it really gets at belief systems, it gets people’s pervasive thinking, but I also would like to give another angle to this. When we feel we can’t step away or reluctant to step away, I think we’re doing a disservice to the development of our people because we may feel this, you know, too much responsibility, but we don’t give them a chance to step up.

We don’t give them a chance to develop and own things in a way that they are capable of if we’re not taking a break.

Bill Berthel: No, I love that. And that doesn’t have to be a fire drill. Yeah. We can proactively plan our time off and ramp some of those folks up for new responsibilities, new pieces of work that they might get to grow in, develop in, and take some new responsibility.

We can ramp that up.

Ralph Simone: One of the things that I think I’ll come back to when we, you know, we talk about places people can start, is in planning. You know, we’re big proponents of weekly planning or biweekly planning, but really looking at blocking the time out for all of your essential activities and relationships.

And vacation is one of them. And we sit down at our family at the beginning of the year and we, we look at, you know, we know we’re gonna take a couple weeks around Christmas. But we’re gonna take maybe the week around Thanksgiving. So then we say, all right, so in the summer, when will we go and will we do something in the winter?

So I now just talked about five weeks. Yes. Outta my six week out of the business. And then the sixth week is often for me, some type of retreat or continuing education. Because that’s the way that we, we sharpen our saw, and I think it’s extremely important, and we know this and we can ground this assessment.

If we look at the productivity of the United States. Tends not to take all of their vacation, tends not to utilize their p t o, compare it to some European nations. Their productivity is higher than ours.

Bill Berthel: Oh, absolutely. It, it’s interesting. There’s a recent H B R article, and I’m not sitting here with the statistics in front of me, but they named the two years in which we had the highest unemployment rates in the US and they linked that to the idea of people don’t take their time off because they have a scarcity mindset.

They’re afraid of being away from the work and well, what’ll happen when I’m gone? Am I no longer valued? It turns out in those years that had some of the highest unemployment rates, which you would think could mean that your job is maybe more at risk, people took the most time off. And so it’s actually, it’s not about scarcity.

They’re suggesting it’s about our addiction to this productivity culture. That we just love to produce and we have a hard time stepping away from work.

Ralph Simone: We identify with it and I think when we, when we too closely identify with it, and you know, Covey, the author of the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People years ago called it this Urgency Addiction.

We’re, we’re so addicted to getting stuff done that we fail to take into consideration getting stuff done for ourselves, and that’s in our health. Our restoration and, and oftentimes we deal best with it when it becomes a crisis because that’s, again, speaks to this getting stuff done prior to a crisis.

We don’t seem to treat it very well. Yeah, that’s good. I was thinking about this in, it would be nice experiment for people to run, take more time off this year than you’ve ever taken off before. Plan it, schedule it. Prepare people for it, and then notice the impact that it has on your own productivity and the productivity of the organization.

And I don’t think it’s that risky, but I think it’s something that I would encourage people to express. So if you’re used to taking two weeks off, take three weeks off. If you’re used to taking one week off, take two weeks off, you know, whatever that is. It, it, it may be different for you at age and stage in your career, but experiment with that and but also plan it.

Prepare for it, schedule it, and be pleasantly surprised at what happens as a result of it.

Bill Berthel: Absolutely. We already discussed one potential impact by more proactively scheduling your time off as it gives you an opportunity to ramp others up for development opportunities in the organization. Research also shows that the more proactive we are with planning, scheduling our time off, you know, ahead of time, it allows more full restoration.

So we’re not just in that well, I’ll take time off and I’ll just kind of flow with it and some of that’s okay. Being spontaneous. That’s not what I’m arguing against here, but be able to have that proactive plan so you can more fully unplug and restore in your time off.

Ralph Simone: You’ve heard the stories. It takes people two, three days to wind down right on their vacation. They’re still all charged up. They’re into this fast, fast, fast, get stuff done. And, and so sometimes, you know, taking two weeks instead of one week, allow yourself to kind of get into a new cave, a new pace, right? Part of changing things up allow us to look at things from a fresh perspective.

And so, you know, DaVinci talked about if you really wanna get a fresh perspective on something creates some distance. Move away from your work long enough, which we call out of the business so that you bring back not only more energy, but a fresh perspective to the work that you do.

Bill Berthel: Ralph. I love it.

Where would we ask people to start experimenting? Where can you start with this case for vacation?

Ralph Simone: I think I would start by examining your belief system around it. And really get retrospective as to why you think you can’t take longer. I think the second place I would go to is if you’re typically taking a week, take a little longer, or if you take time and are feeling compelled to check in, check in less, right?

Take a small baby step. To experimenting with a behavior that allows you to be more where your feet are. I think one of the challenges that people share with us a lot is they, you know, when they’re at work, they’re thinking about stuff at home, and when they’re at home, they’re thinking about stuff at work.

There can’t be anything less productive than that because you’re not being present to what’s in front of you. And so I think I would encourage people to take baby steps where they could be fully present to the new experiment.

Bill Berthel: Thanks for listening. You can listen to a new podcast two times every month here at Get Emergent or wherever you listen to podcasts.

We like to bring you contemporary leadership topics and ideas, balanced with what we hope you find are better practices that you can apply to your work and leadership.

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