Start Planning Now! Or procrastinate, That's OK, too
Did you miss National Plan for Vacation Day? It was January 30. You were supposed to sit down with your loved ones and have a rational conversation about where, when, and how you would be using your 2018 vacation days.
Oh wait, it doesn't work that way in your household? It's a lovely image, everyone sitting around the kitchen table, collaborating in soft tones about dreamy days off in the not-so-distant future. I'd like to meet those people someday.
But here in the real world, most families are run by an alpha planner. It's the person who has mapped out family vacations five years in advance but discreetly waits for everyone else to catch up before she reveals what "we" all decided to do. (It's usually a "she," in my experience.) She's willing to negotiate the details, but the master plan is her domain. For the alpha planner, January 30 is a little late to start thinking about summer vacation. Wouldn't you agree, sweetie?
And of course, there are the outlier families, those rudderless clusters of humans who live under one roof but have no planner. Somehow, they manage to wander out the door as a group, usually with sufficiently packed suitcases, and arrive at a destination that will acknowledge the existence of a reservation. For them, planning a vacation on January 30 is a silly thing to do: what kind of person knows in January what they will want to be doing in August, anyway?
Regardless of which camp your family falls in, using vacation days is vitally important. According to Project Time Off, in 2016, 54% of American workers let 662 million vacation days go unused. Looking at it another way, more than half of American workers worked for free for 662 million days.
We can assume that such a wide swath of Americans are not just bad at math. There are many reasons why people fail to use all of their vacation days, but none of them counterbalance all the reasons why maximizing vacation is good living and good business.
More and more research validates the assertion that employees who take time off are more productive. The brain, like any other vital organ, needs a little downtime in order to re-charge. Anyone who has trained for an athletic event, from the weekend warrior to the professional athlete, can tell you that rest days are a critical part of any training plan. Your brain, just like your heart and your quads, needs rest days in order to function at top levels.
People who disconnect from their screens report being calmer and less stressed than those who are constantly connected. One study showed that when people took a walk in the woods after learning something new, they were more likely to retain it.
Many people will be surprised to learn that employees who take their vacation do better financially as well. A study by Project Time Off and published in the Harvard Business Review shows that employee who took 10 or more days off were more likely to receive a raise or bonus. In addition, the data shows that there is no correlation between vacation days used and the unemployment rate. It appears that using earned vacation days is more dependent on personal choices than external economic forces.
So it's not too early--and it's not too late--to plan your summer vacation. And if you're looking for a good place to go walking in the woods after learning something new, we're here to help.