Want to be happier? Use your vacation time
I am preparing to take a much-needed vacation, and I am trying to figure out how to disconnect and recharge.
According to a recent study from Project: Time Off, the average time a worker took off in 2017 was 17.2 days, and more than half didn’t use all their allotted days. That’s a shame, because there are health benefits to being away, especially when it involves travel. Americans taking all or most of their vacation days to get out of town report dramatically higher rates of happiness than those using little to none of their time for travel, the study found.
I don’t really need to be convinced to take vacation, but in order to receive the restorative benefits, I need to be more mindful of what I will do while I’m away. Like many Americans, I have fallen into the habit of constantly checking my e-mail. This is partially due to a pattern that I established when I was in a client business.
While I no longer have clients, the media industry makes me a slave to the news cycle, which in turn keeps me tethered to email. Perhaps most importantly, I am compulsive about keeping my inbox cleared out.
I tried letting the emails pile up for a day after interviewing Tim Harford, author of “Messy: The Power of Disorder to Transform Our Lives,” but fell off the wagon after a couple of weeks.
One problem with my habit is that it sucks me back into work, when I should be getting a break, even if just for the night. According to the latest data from the Labor Department’s American Time Use Survey, Americans ages 35 to 44 are on average working 5 hours and 13 minutes each day. That may be just an average, but I am definitely logging more time working than that.
After talking to colleagues and productivity experts, here’s my to-do list to better manage my time off. Feel free to shoot me a note with your tips.
Two weeks before vacation: I communicated with bosses and co-workers about my plans. I sent an email to (and then followed up with) TV and radio producers and bookers, with my vacation dates and also noted that if something big occurred (i.e. a stock market drop of more than 4 percent in a single day), they should contact me by phone, not email.
I prepared a detailed list of what needed to be ready to go. I recorded a bunch of radio pieces and also wrote a few weeks of columns.
One week before vacation: I made an email plan. When I first told my producer that I was not going to check email while on vacation, he scoffed and said: “You’re never going to do that. Why don’t you try something more realistic, like once a day?” Good idea.
The day before vacation: Isetupa detailed out-of-office reply, alerting everyone that I will be gone and that I won’t check email frequently. I also provided a contact person, who may be able to assist while I’m out.
Vacation mode: I turned off notifications and am ready to head to the beach!