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How to vacation when you suck at vacationing

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Professionals suck at the art of vacation when they behave as if the business doesn’t need them and they take off without proper preparation, leaving the business to (metaphorically) go up in flames while they wade through the surf.

I’ll be the first to say it: Your business won’t fall apart while you’re taking vacation from work. Busy professionals often chug along like machines, working long stretches of time without taking time off. But machines (and humans) break down. Continuous work without vacations can leave you fatigued and cranky. This fact is precisely why you need to take that well-deserved holiday. By this, it means really taking and enjoying the holiday, not simply working in another destination, where all you do is still face your laptop and other work gadgets.

A lot of professionals, also known specifically as workaholics, toil 52 weeks per year because they feel like no one can do their work as well as they can. Staying online often isn’t a matter of concern - rather, it’s a mechanism of control, pride, and ego. Also, there's that added concern that you may just be more fed up anyway when you come back and realize that the job hasn’t been done while you were gone.

That said, professionals also suck at the art of vacation when they behave as if the business doesn’t need them and they take off without proper preparation, leaving the business to (metaphorically) go up in flames while they wade through the surf. The key is for you to prepare for your holiday. Once your plans are well made, do take your necessary leave just so everyone in the team is also prepared for your absence. After this leave is filed, go ahead and enjoy. Avoid facing your work phone for a couple of days. When you come back to your office, you’re guaranteed to have that renewed sense of satisfaction.

Wondering, then, how to make the most of your vacation? Use these tips so that you can fully enjoy the benefits of taking vacation time the right way:

1. Tell people you’re taking vacation from work.

About 60% of employees leave vacation time unused because they’re worried about appearing disloyal and negligent. Trust that your employers will respect your reasons to take PTO.

Need to convince yourself of the benefits? Vacations replenish your mental, emotional, and physical health. Women are eight times more likely to develop heart disease when they take six-year gaps between vacations, and men are 32% likelier to die of heart attacks without annual breaks. Other significant health benefits of taking a vacation include decreased stress levels, increased job satisfaction, and improved productivity (8% for every 10 hours logged).

2. Always overplan.

Before you leave, ensure that the workplace is set up for success while you’re gone. Anticipate questions, prepare resources, and delegate a point person to serve as your interim. I recommend having multiple contacts listed in your email’s vacation autoresponder. Only 49% of American professionals prep for PTO, but doing so can armor your team with confidence.

As you plan for your holiday itself – by doing that thorough research on important matters, such as wondering if timeshares are worthwhile – do remember to plan for all the other necessary factors of your trip. From the time you file your leave to hop on that plane for your journey and even when it’s time to come home, over planning can help ensure a successful and relaxing vacation.

No matter how well (or terribly) things go in your absence, plan to return to the office in appreciation mode. Some professionals like to buy gifts for their teams as thanks for handling the day-to-day.

3. Disconnect while you’re away.

Usually, it’ll take two to three days to get work out of your system before you can start enjoying the vacation. If you don’t turn off your phone or laptop, then you’ll be unable to relax during time off work.

While vacationing, think about the people in your life. I’ll never forget one Christmas Eve when I couldn’t get off my phone because it kept blowing up. Growing frustrated, my dad told me tell them I’m with family. Back then, I didn’t force myself to unplug, and it affected the people I loved. Now, my family takes off-grid camping trips with no cell reception - just tents in the Idaho woods. Those are some of the longest, most wonderful days of my life.

4. Don’t hit the ground sprinting.

You’ll likely return to a deficit of emails, messages, and to-do items - but if you try to catch up all at once, you’ll only burn yourself out again. Why ruin the benefits of taking vacation time? Leave those emails until you get home. Once you respond, it’ll only keep coming, and before you know it, your holiday has passed where all you did was also think about work. When you come to think of it, you’ve wasted hard-earned money for that holiday, too.

All busy professionals could use some rest and relaxation, even if they suck at actually taking it. The trick to finding your work-life balance is to try adding and removing elements from the scale. Not everything will work, but every step gets you a little bit closer.

Takeaway
If you used to suck at taking a vacation because you’ve allowed your work and other stressors to suck the life and youth out of you, this should no longer be the case. Once all travel restrictions are finally lifted, you may want to give yourself a test holiday to see how you fair. Apply these tips, and perhaps you’ll notice a difference in how you can now finally bask in the beauty of what your holiday destination has got to offer you.

When going on a holiday isn’t something that you can do all the time, once you finally have the opportunity for it, go ahead, breathe, relax and enjoy. Your work won’t die if you give yourself those few days for enjoyment.

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