Career Consulting

Here’s why you NEED to take all of your vacation every year

It’s scary isn’t it?

But at the same time it feels pretty good.

You know what I’m talking about – putting up that out of office and going off the grid.

It’s interesting, it seems the more you move up the ranks, the more scary this is, until you’re the big boss. Read: partner in consulting speak. I think the campus hires often may not have enough responsibility to be concerned. Or the prioritization of career over vacation may be heavily skewed toward the latter.

If I had to visualize it, I think it would look something like this:

You might be thinking this is about to be another post about millennial entitlement or something like that but it’s not. It’s something entirely different. Instead, I want to talk about why it’s important to take that time off and why the new generation gets it right.

I’m sitting on a plane right now thinking about how I want to get this (vacation) right this time and more importantly why I NEED to, and so do you.

It’s embarrassing to get called out (correctly) by your kids or others close family members.

Anytime someone highlights to your face that the person you are doesn’t match up with the person who you claim or want to be, it makes you cringe a bit.

You can burn out.

If you work ALL the time, at a point you’ll start feeling like you can’t give anymore and decide you’re done and want to try something else. No hard feelings…it’s you, not them.

You start to feel resentment toward the job and your superiors.

In this case you’ll feel like it’s them, not you. You likely have this feeling that you’re being worked like a dog and the powers that be don’t appreciate the effort you put in every single day. The smart business person knows you’re responsible for setting your own personal and professional boundaries, but we’ll ignore that inconvenient fact for now.

Your patience for co-workers becomes dangerously low.

This may very well be your (or my) default disposition but it’s really less than ideal if you start making a habit of snapping on people in the office. Even when you know they totally deserve it. Whatever gratification you might get from giving into your natural impulse will just be overshadowed by your new perception as the unhinged person in the office.

Your work product suffers.

As it turns out, having a fresh brain helps you think more efficiently. Sometimes that is hard to do when you’re in the thick of a tough project that feels like no end in sight.

The Solution

Clearly, there are a number of reasons to disappear for a bit, but that fear I mentioned is real. The good news is there’s a relatively simple remedy. It’s a two-headed beast known as planning and communication, which become increasingly important the less flexible the vacation dates are.

I have a team member who had a two week world cup trip booked prior to joining the project, which just happens to be the culminating two weeks of the project. He made it known up front and we know we had to plan on what to do during that window. At the end of the day it’s about making sure someone steps up and has your back so you can fully recharge. That person might be a direct report, a peer, a superior, or some combination. It depends on the specific circumstances.

Failing to be proactive usually has two major side effects. People will call you while you’re supposed to ne relaxing, or you make someone unhappy because you sprang on them at the last second. That may show in the form of frustration or you might get full on anger. If you take this approach and don’t get that type of reaction, it’s probably time for you to find your next gig, because you’re not needed on that one.

Here is one last tip. Vacation doesn’t mean you have to go somewhere. If you want to take two weeks at home catching up on reading, golfing, running, or whatever you like to do in your spare time, that’s all fair game. We call this the “staycation” and I love them.

I bet you will too, and you'll be more productive as a result of taking them.