For us career-oriented and ambitious types, talking about "how to think about taking vacations", at first glance, sounds unnecessary and frivolous.
But we all know burnouts are real, and that work-life balance requires true "time-off" from the constant hustling. As women, we have to deal with our biology (child birth) and social prejudice (the glass ceiling) that make us more susceptible to burnout. Let's face it, it's hard enough to think about work and climbing the ladder even if you're away from your computer/cell phone/meetings. What we need is conscious and intentional effort to create a space that allows our body and brain to disconnect from work and recharge.
Over the years I've seen people either end up burnt out or waste away their precious vacation time by not planning ahead. Below are 6 common mistakes that can be easily avoided:
1. Not Taking Vacation At All
When deadlines are approaching, PowerPoint decks need to be built, and clients are waiting on your deliverables, taking a vacation just sounds flat-out inconvenient. If you're one of the so called "work martyrs" deemed in a recent survey by Project: Time Off and Gfk, you're probably even having anxiety about taking time off. it's just too easy to leave it to the Thanksgiving and Christmas festivities to "require" you to be away. But think about it this way: if your vacation was given to you in its cash equivalent, imagine 2 weeks, 3 weeks, or 4 weeks worth of your salary, would you just waste it away, and leave it to chance whether you benefit from it? Probably not. And that's what is happening when you don't take vacation that has been given to you as part of your compensation.
2. Not Planning Ahead For Vacation
Continuing on the point of leaving it up to chance to take vacation, people sometimes just mentally anticipate an "off period", and don't make any actual changes to get ready for it. What I mean by planning ahead for vacation is this: block that section of your calendar as soon as you have vacation planned so your coworkers don't mistakenly schedule you in for group meetings. Finish your deliverables before you leave. Designate a person that will answer questions or resolve ad hoc problems on your behalf. Let people you work with know you're going to be away. Which bring me to the next common mistake people make..
3. Not Letting Your Supervisor Know Early Enough
This is a simple point. As soon as you have made the decision to be away, you should give your supervisor a headsup. Have at least a phone conversation with them, if not face to face. And then, email them the dates you're going to be away and your replacement plan in an email. Some managers will ask that you create an event in the group's calendar so that everyone's aware of everyone else's schedules and whereabouts.
As far as when to do this, typically if you're going to be away for just 1-3 days, it's enough to give notice 2 weeks ahead. If you're going to be away for more than a week, it's generally recommended that you give the notice at least a month in advance. These are general guidelines though. Depending on the nature of your function, the dynamic of the team you're in, and your supervisor's tolerance for last minute changes, the ideal time for you to give notice may be different.
4. Ending up Working During Vacation
Just a little caveat to this mistake: there are times when a project you're committed to really does need your support and response even during your vacation. I would even go as far as saying that's a good thing because it shows that you play an irreplaceable role. But be careful here, because thinking you are irreplaceable can easily be masking the fact that you are not able to let go.
Unless you're going on vacation alone, otherwise do this for the sake of your loved ones that you're vacationing with. Stay off the grid for a bit and really be off.
5. Not Building A Cushion At The End Of Vacation
This is especially important if you're traveling somewhere that has at least 3 hours in time difference. I always build at least 1 and a half day at the end of my vacation before I have to go back to work.
Vacations are meant to relax and recharge you. If you come back from it struggling with time zone changes, it defeats the purpose. So, fight jetlag by adjusting to the destination's timezone a few days before you leave, and build just a day or two at the end of your time off to wind down and get ready to rock and roll at work again.
6. Planning For The Wrong Kind Of Vacation
It takes a little bit of self awareness and introspection to know what kind of time off truly relaxes you. Do you feel more energized spending a whole day at beach with nothing but margaritas and sun screen around you, or visiting museums in foreign cities to learn about new culture and history? To each her own but known what type of vacation you need at the time is important. To certain people, lying around on the beach all day might leave them bored and uninspired, whereas for others, museum hopping in a new city may leave them feeling overwhelmed and exhausted at the end of the trip. So know what vacation type you are, and what vacation type you need for the time you're taking the vacation.
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Disclaimer: I received a Jord wood watch as a gift in exchange for my review; all opinion expressed is true and solely my own.