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Are you taking enough time off?

I took a vacation last week. It was March break in Toronto. Our youngest daughter travelled to our family overseas for the break so my wife and I took advantage of our ‘empty nesters’ status and took off to a resort on one of the Caribbean islands.

I love what I do and I am a passionate type-A, hyperactive workaholic. So, for me to have a successful vacation I need to go to a place where I can leave all devices, my wallet and my watch behind and just focus on resting, slowing down, rejuvenating and having fun.

Nothing fits the bill better for me than an all-inclusive resort on a sandy beach in a warm destination. I spend all days doing only activities that pamper my soul: reading, journaling, listening to music, practicing my yoga, hanging out with my wife and eating and drinking good food and wine.

I work very hard so I make it a point to take as many vacations as possible between gigs throughout the year. Sometimes these are just short getaways and sometimes they are much longer. However, I have made it a practice to take at least two ‘proper’ vacations each year – one mid year, usually when our younger daughter goes to summer camp, and then one during Christmas break. These rejuvenating vacations have become consistent and empowering opportunities to reflect on my personal and professional progress, as well as chance to create my aspirations, dreams and plans for the next six months.

Most professionals work extremely hard and for long hours every day. This is especially the case in companies that are constantly looking to reduce expenses and increase their people’s productivity and results. Many employees and managers find managing their work-life balance to be a constant struggle.

People understand the importance of taking vacations and time off. But, it seems that most people – especially in North America – are not very good at doing it. People say the right things, but many seem to relate to taking time off as a ‘luxury’ that would be ‘nice to have,’ not a mission critical ‘necessity.’ Most people don’t do a good job taking a stand for their own–and their family’s–well-being at the same level they take a stand for their work and career.

I used to think and behave this way. But, over the years as my work, travel and demands increased, and as I have grown older and wiser (with my wife’s and kid’s help, of course) I have evolved my paradigm. In fact, my mantra today is ‘work hard and play hard.’

I believe taking time off is mission critical. It is a necessity. It is something we should be accountable for just like we are for our work commitments. Why?

  1. We spend so much time working in our business but not enough time working on our business. We are so consumed by our day-to-day challenges and opportunities that we don’t get too many opportunities to ‘lift our head above water.’ People often tell me that their work is so intense and fast-paced that they don’t have time to simply stop and ‘think,’ ‘plan,’ ‘innovate’ and ‘create.’ Taking time off gives us these quality opportunities to reflect, think, create, innovate, dream and plan the next steps of taking our self-expression and success to the next level. In fact, there are some Ivy League schools that have incorporated into their curriculum periods during the day where students are instructed to ‘do nothing,’ just think and create. It makes a big difference to productivity and success.
  2. Working as hard as most of us do takes a toll. We need the time off to renew, heal and rejuvenate ourselves. It’s a ‘must’ for our well-being, productivity and longevity. We tend to look out for everything and everyone else but not ourselves. We tend to always be the last priority. We work long hours, sometimes on the weekends too. We go out of our way to take care of our customers, stakeholders, projects and company, as we should… but we often neglect ourselves. Instead of taking a bolder stand for what is important to us, we often tend to say “yes” to all or most work requests, no matter what the personal consequence may be – like missing our kid’s recital or birthday, or other important family engagements – because we fear that saying “no” would be viewed as ‘selfish’ or lack of commitment to the company cause.
  3. Consider the fact that the divorce rates in modern countries are outrageously high. One of the reasons for the appalling statistic is our tendency to get addicted to, and overly consumed by our work and careers. There is nothing wrong with a commitment to our work and career. I am guilty of that my self. However, we would be wise to manage it in great harmony with the other parts of our life that we care about. Time off, especially with our loved ones (wife, husband, significant other and/or kids), is critical for managing these most important relationships. It’s time to reconnect but may be even more important as an opportunity to show those we love that they are still the most important part in our life. I guess that is why we must ask: “Am I working in order to live or living in order to work?” Some say that one of the differences between the North American and European cultures is that the Europeans do a better job “working to live” and in North America we tend to “live to work.”
  4. Taking time off is also a great opportunity to nurture our own soul by doing the things that we love to do and aren’t able to do for most of the year. Things like reading, writing, hiking, skiing and other activities that are important for each of us. It’s also an opportunity to explore new things that we’ve never done before; things that may be on our bucket list. Time off is a critical time to invest in our Self. After all, if we’re not in good mental, spiritual and physical condition, all the rest is irrelevant!

 

Make sure you make taking time off as much of a priority as everything else that is important to you.

Photo by: Moyan Brenn