Nearly 40 percent of American workers didn’t take a vacation this past year. And that’s abysmal. It’s financially and physiologically irresponsible to spend a year without a vacation.
Lost vacation days means lost money. Workers forfeited 222 million of their 658 million unused vacation days. That translates to a loss of about $61.4 billion in benefits. That’s enough cash to unseat Mark Zuckerberg’s spot as the 5th wealthiest person in the world. For the average worker, the lost value of that untaken paid time off comes out to $604. But financial implications aside, the toll taken on our physical and mental health can be even greater.
In 2000, scientists at the State University of New York studied 12,000 men who were at high risk for coronary heart disease. They found that men who took annual vacations were less likely to die of heart disease. Those who didn’t take annual vacations were 21 percent more likely to die from all causes and a 32 percent more likely to die of a heart attack.
Fewer vacation days also means your bad sleep habits can run unchecked. Researchers have found that vacations help you break nasty night-time habits like checking email in bed. We talk a lot about building habits, but we rarely talk about how important it can be to break a bad one. Habit breaking is notoriously difficult, but it’s made easier by putting yourself in a novel situation in a novel place (like the ones you might visit during a vacation).
Vacationing also helps alleviate tension and exhaustion. Researchers from around the world have proven what anyone laying on a beach right now can tell you — time out of the office means less overall stress and burnout in your life. And that helps you dodge a whole other slew of health problems.
So, if you didn’t take a vacation last year, do yourself a favor and start your new year off by putting one on the books.
Making Sure You Take a Vacation in 2018
It’s clear that we need to be taking vacations. Our health depends on it. But excuses are easy to make. Some people think it isn’t easy to take time off, or if they do they’ll get fired. Or that they can’t take time off because they’re the only one who can do their job, or because a pile of overdue work would be left for them when they get back. Whatever your excuse is, do yourself a favor and put a cork in it.
Here at The One Thing, we take our vacation timeblocks seriously. The first thing we do when looking at our calendars for the new year is to block off our vacation time. It’s that important. We schedule our work around our vacation days—not the other way around.
Your vacations don’t all have to be lengthy or extravagant. We recommend taking at least one long weekend per quarter and a larger trip only once or twice a year. That way we can start off each quarter refreshed and ready to roll. And at some point during the year, we give ourselves an opportunity to hit the reset button on our minds and bodies.
Timeblocking your vacation begins with knowing what you want. Take time to understand who and what you want to take time off for. Do you take a trip to see your parents once a year? Block it off ahead of time. If you have children, schedule your time off so that it aligns with their holidays or summer vacation so you can get the most of your time off. Do you and your spouse like to take a long weekend to celebrate your anniversary? Snag that time in your calendar for your partner. Tailor your vacation must-haves around the events and people in your life you would like to set aside time for and make sure they do the same for you!
Second, take into account the ONE Thing you can do to get the most out of your vacation time. Does work pile itself up at a certain time of year? Then make sure you schedule a relaxing vacation right after you’re typically done dealing with it. Do you get tired of seeing the walls of your cubical in the middle of July? Then find something adventurous to do during the month. Does cold weather make you sleepy? Then schedule a stay-cation at the beginning of fall. By timing our vacation activities with what we’re typically experiencing throughout the year gives us the opportunity to combat whatever life throws at us.
The next thing you should do is talk to your boss and loved ones about your plans for the year. Nobody likes surprises when it comes to vacations. If you know when you’re going to be off, don’t wait around, let those who need to know about it what your plans are. By telling people everything in advance, you give others a chance to plan for your absence and mitigate the chance of having a vacation-buster thrown your way.
Another good idea is to timeblock your hours wisely leading up to your vacations. That way you aren’t glued to your phone or desk when you should be out relaxing and having fun. Cover all of your bases on the front end. While it’s easy to zone out and dream about the fun days ahead, it’s better to actually experience them. Block off your hours so all of the work that needs to get done is taken care of. And while you’ve already communicated with them far in advance, remind everyone that you’re going to be taking time off. It can’t hurt to be too careful.
When all of your vacation dominos are lined up, the only thing to do is to take the most important step and set out on your vacation. As President Eisenhower once said, “Plans are nothing; planning is everything.” Time block your vacations and commit to living a healthier, happier 2018.
Keep yourself accountable to your vacation dreams using our Kick Ass Guide to Accountability!