10 Ideas for Taking a Really Good Vacation

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We recently listened to an insightful podcast episode from HBR IdeaCast titled, “How to Use All your Vacation – and Really Unplug”, and wanted to share with you some things we learned.

A recent survey showed that 82% of Americans work on vacation, and 90% check their work messages. And not everyone takes their full vacation, with only 50% of people doing so.

There are a few explanations for why it is so difficult to take vacations and to unplug during vacations:

  • Work feels urgent, and with the easy access to work through our smartphones and laptop, which travel with us wherever we go, it’s simple to fit some work in.
  • With more people working from home, our work/life balance has been blurred, and we are more used to working all hours of the day, all days of the week.
  • The start of the pandemic put organizations in crisis mode with all hands-on deck and everyone working extra hours, but most of use haven’t gotten off of that mode and are used to the extra work we’ve taken on.
  • When vacations are staycations, we’re in the same environment as when we’re working, and we’re reminded of our day-to-day responsibilities.

Taking a proper vacation is important, and by “proper” we mean unplugging, not checking email, not checking calls, not working on projects, etc. Taking time away helps you to be more creative, because getting away gives you perspective and helps you think abstractly. Taking time away helps to remind you that there are other things you do in your life. It’s nice to get away from work, which also helps it feel nice to get back to work as well. Getting that break helps you renew your enjoyment and love for your work.

In the podcast, the host and interviewers share 10 ways to take a really good vacation and make the most out of it.

1) Do things that you enjoy

When you do things that you enjoy, you’re reminded that you have life outside of your work. It helps put things into perspective, and when you return to work, you’re able to better maintain work/life balance.

2) Change your context

While staycations have become the norm during the pandemic, there are benefits to going somewhere different for your vacation. Changing your context helps you forget about your work and give you new perspective. Getting out of your normal day-to-day life often leads to more creative solutions when you return to work.

3) It’s not one size fits all

There are many different ways to take vacation. Going away for 1-2 weeks once a year is definitely good. But taking half days, leaving work early, or taking a long weekend to go somewhere for 3-4 days also are good options.

4) Take microbreaks

Research shows that even micro breaks or breaks in the middle of the work day can be effective in helping you feel refreshed or rejuvenated.

5) Start small

If you’re someone who’s not used to taking vacation, it might feel daunting to take 1-2 weeks off. You can start small. The first step to going on vacation may be just taking the evening off and not working after “work hours”.

6) See your vacation as helping your work

Don’t think of it as work vs. leisure, because work will always seem more important. Think of your leisure time as helping you be better at your job. Your vacation can help you with creativity, maintain your interest in your love for your job and give you a different perspective.

7) Set up an effective out-of-office message

Be clear how you’re spending your time, “I’m going to be on the beach with my three kids.” This helps people know not to disturb you. And give people information about who to contact if they need help while you’re away.

8) Model taking time off for your colleagues

If you’re a leader in your organization, it’s important that you model taking vacation. When leaders take their full vacation time, they are encouraging others to do the same. This helps to build a healthy culture within an organization.

9) Delegate all year round

Delegating is not something you do in the moment when you’re planning to be away. You have to be constantly teaching others to do your job, so that when the time comes for someone to do a portion of your job, they are ready.

10) Don’t worry

Don’t worry. The place isn’t going to fall apart without you. And if the organization does fall apart because you went away, there are bigger problems than you.

With that, we wish you a joyful holiday season, and for those of you that are taking vacation, may it be a time where you can unplug from work, rest, rejuvenate, and refresh.

HBR IdeaCast Episode 831: How to Use All Your Vacation — And Really Unplug, Harvard Business Review, Dec 7, 2021. Accessed Dec 12, 2021.