But even with that awesome team, I had a hard time taking off of work before. There never seemed a good time—deadlines, projects, big meetings with big shots—it really seemed the world would crumble if I took a vacation. Then I got over myself.
Unfortunately, many Americans let vacation days go unused. This WebMD Article gives great insight into studies on vacations (and the effects of not taking them). My gut tells me, however, that most working parents already know these reasons people don’t take their vacation and the effects of doing so have on their health and stress levels. I won’t harp on the health effects too much here; instead I’ll focus on the other benefits of why taking a vacation is good for you, your family, and your team.
Here’s why you should take a vacation – For your team:
It gives your team a chance to show you what they’ve got. If you’re constantly around, your team can become dependent on you. Think about what happens with your kids when you start expecting more of them. How many of you have given your kids chores or set the expectation that they need to clean their own room after years of cleaning it for them? (P.S. here’s a great article on this aspect of parenting sent to me from my friend Patty). A vacation is a chance to practice the art of letting go. No, not everything will happen exactly as you would have done it. That’s okay. In fact, in some cases, maybe it’s better.
It gives them a break from you. Even people with the best bosses will tell you that it’s nice to get a break from them once in a while. When you’re boss is around, people feel pressured to be “on stage”. Not to say that when off stage people will become unruly (and if that does happen, then you don’t have the right team), but in general, people need a break from the stage-level energy. A week of knowing that they’ll have a few less emails will do a team good.
You might get a different perspective on things while away. In today’s world of super-productivity demands, we don’t have much time to think. That’s not good. We don’t have as much time to put into seeing different perspectives on issues (though having a broadly diverse team can help bring this!). We often make a decision and then move onto the next thing on our to-do list. Oftentimes, are teams are catching these decisions (orders?) and, if they see you busy, they might not feel comfortable launching into a big discussion. A little time away can give you the chance to process (even subconsciously) suggestions that your team had, other angles of something you hadn’t thought of, or unintended consequences of an action. The act of just pausing will also restore you, help you slow down and and help you think differently when tackling problems when you get back to work. That is good for your team. And good for you….
You might get a different perspective on things while away. So important I had to list it twice. I won’t repeat the paragraph, but just know this is a key benefit to taking a vacation.
You get to rekindle and strengthen personal relationships. It goes without saying that it’s important to take vacations with your family. That holds true whether you’re a working parent, supporting a working parent, or any other set-up you have. Creating lasting memories with your kids is so important and plays a key role in their confidence. It doesn’t have to be fancy—we often went camping as a kid because there were so many of us and we couldn’t afford much else—but we loved it. Whatever it is, make a vacation with your family happen. Period.
Don’t forget, however, that there are many other special relationships in your life however. My best friend and her husband have taken a week away ever since they had their first child, and she says these vacations have played a key role in the success of they’re relationship. She notes that it gives them a chance to remember why they fell in love with each other in the first place.
I’m also a big fan of girls’ (or guys’) weekends. I went many years without these—thinking that it was too selfish of me to take them as a working parent. I know that couldn’t be further from the truth. Girls’ weekends give you a chance to remember yourself and have fun without any pressure. Do I take one every weekend? Of course not. But I aim for one a year—and again, even if it’s just hanging at my house because funds are tight—it’s still a weekend together with fun friends.
Other relationships you might want to strengthen could include parents, cousins, b-school classmates—it really doesn’t matter who is on the list. Just make the list, and prioritize those you want to strengthen most. Then make the vacation happen.
And of course, taking a vacation is good for your health. Just in case you’re the one person that hasn’t yet heard this, know that not taking a vacation can hurt you not only mentally, but physically. ()
For your family:
The impact on your team helps you at home. If your team is happier, they perform better. Which means you have to spend less energy and time managing them. Which means you have more time and energy for your family. Additionally, perhaps you’ve decided as a result of some delegation you did for your vacation that you can permanently delegate some things. Great—you’ve just created capacity—which is great for your family.
You’re improving your health. And your family wants you healthy.
You’re reminding your family of how much fun you are. Let’s face it—as working parents we can get bogged down in multi-tasking, being at one place physically but mentally someplace else, and perhaps evening appearing “spastic” as we move at lightening speed from one thing to another. Do your kids and spouse/partner remember the “non-spastic” you? Give them a chance to see that side of you. Show them that you can relax and just have fun. Show them that you can go a few hours without checking your phone for new emails. They might not believe it at first, but don’t be surprised if you hear a “wow, I didn’t know you were this much fun!” at some point during the vacation.
You’re giving your family a chance to get your attention without having to compete for it. It takes energy to try and get on someone’s calendar. Sometimes people don’t realize how much they get from a hug, a chat, or laughing with someone they love. When our days are filled to the max, it’s hard to even realize that we’re missing out on these “softer” and sweet moments. A vacation is a chance to give people deeper attention without the distraction of your job.
You’re creating new adventures and lasting memories. This in and of itself is just recharging for people. You feel better. You and your family have fun. And you have a stronger bond. As I mentioned earlier, this is the type of stuff that can help build confidence for everyone.
How to make the vacation happen:
You may think everything I said above is true, but still wonder how you can make this vacation happen. Planning a vacation is work, but it’s well worth the investment in yourself and your family (and if you need to know why it’s important to invest in yourself and your family, see my last blog post :)).
Here are some tips to make an effective vacation happen:
Set it up properly at work:
- Assess what needs to get done beforehand
- Assess what needs to get done during, and to whom you can delegate
- Communicate boundaries to your team and bosses (will you check email once a day? Not at all? Can they call you if the sky falls down?); and honor those boundaries while you’re gone!
- Block time on your calendar for your first day back from vacation to give yourself time to clean up your email box and check-in with your team. (Note, when cleaning up emails, sort by subject and delete/file earlier emails in the chain; read the last one and determine if you need to act on it)
Set it up properly at home:
- Get the family (or whoever is going with you) involved in picking the location
- Delegate (and then let go!) some of the planning. Is your partner good at finding a bargain? Ask him/her to book the hotel/flights. Ask the kids to look up activities.
- Create a packing list
- Make sure your household stuff is taken care of (plan for your pets, stop the mail, ask someone to check on your house, etc.)
During the trip:
- Take pictures!
Hopefully you’re motivated now to go ahead and take those vacations. I hope you do, and I hope you come back feeling refreshed and closer with your loved ones. Now, please excuse me. I’m going to head out on a weekend camping trip with my daughters. Happy vacationing!