Want to be hap­pier? Use your va­ca­tion time

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Money - Jill Sch­lesinger Jill on Money Jill Sch­lesinger, CFP, is a CBS News busi­ness an­a­lyst. A former op­tions trader and CIO of an in­vest­ment ad­vi­sory firm, she wel­comes com­ments and ques­tions at [email protected]­lon­money.com.

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!

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