Ok, I confess. I was a vacation day hoarder.
Back when I was working in consulting, there was a year long period where I didn’t take any PTO. I got so entrenched in a project that I thought “I can’t take a vacation now. They need me.” And “I’ll take time when the project is done.”
Well, you know what happened. The project completion date got extended and I was ‘fighting fires’ as my original vacation date passed. By the time, Christmas came that year I was stressed, miserable and frankly grey (literally, my skin was grey. Not cute.)
If any of the above resonated, you probably NEED a vacation too.
We’re not the only ones. According to the US Travel Association, 41% of American workers let their vacation days go unused or expire at the end of the year.
Do we really love to work that much? I don’t think so. Instead, I think we don’t give vacation time the value it deserves or understand what it can do for us.
We all deserve (and need) vacation to rest and recover from the stresses of work and life. It’s how we disconnect from the world and refocus on what’s important to us and bring our values front and center.
The key thing is to truly disconnect. Don’t bring your work iPhone and answer emails from the beach. Be present and savor the moment and experience. Unless you are a surgeon waiting to hear about an available heart for your transplant patient, the work email can wait.
Here are 3 ways to use your vacation (and a bonus tip for 2015):
1) Plan out your vacation dates for next year now. Crack open your outlook and sync up your google calendars. It’s time to block off 3-5 days every 90 days for a little vacation. Tell your significant other to do the same. Then, ask for the time off. Unless your business is highly seasonal (i.e., tax season), this is more than enough notice for your boss (and you) to plan around. So, open up your outlook, and block out a mini-vacay for you, your significant other and/or your family every 3 months. (Do it now. I’ll wait.)
2) Play ‘legit’ hooky. Don’t tell your family or friends that you have the day off and give yourself some much needed “me” time. Book that spa appointment, get your nails and hair done, go shopping. Give yourself a pamper day or rope in some of your good friends for a bit of fun. One September years ago, a few friends and I went to Six Flags Great Adventure on a Wednesday. It was glorious.
3) Make it a stay cation. If that Mastercard commercial with the little kids asking their parents to just take “one more day” of vacation sounded WAY TOO familiar, this might be a good option for you.
4) Give a day to needy co-workers. If you have a lot of unused vacation days, but can’t take the time before they expire. Talk with your manager and see if you can donate them to a colleague. In this way, PTO that would otherwise go unused can be put to good use, you’ll look like a superhero to a colleague and you’ll get some bonus karma points too.
Remember this: In most companies you either use your vacation or you lose it. For salaried workers, this means you are taking a VOLUNTARY PAY DECREASE with each PTO day you give back to the company.
Stop giving your boss more of your money – plan out your vacation today!