In 2018, a total of 768 million vacation days went unused in the United States.
This statistic stopped me in my tracks during a long, fall walk around the lake. I listened on as one of my favorite podcasts continued to explain how the current “hustle” trend is causing workers to feel that taking days off reflects poorly on their motivation and dedication to their company. This “hustle culture” is becoming more and more prominent as people are directly correlating self worth and success with their commitment in the workplace. Throw pillows, office decor and phone cases are plastered with the phrases “Rise and Grind” and “Wake Up. Hustle. Repeat,” leaving us with constant reminders to never stop working.
And what makes this cultural trend even more popular is our relationship with technology. Now, we can reach anyone at any time with a few taps of the phone screen, which comes with an expectation to be ‘on’ at all times. But what can seem like a benefit of technology quickly turns into overtired, overwhelmed and burnt out employees. The average person touches their phone more than 2,600 times every day, constantly checking notifications and social media in fear of missing out or falling behind. But does prioritizing ‘busy’ equal success? At the end of the day, do we want to just be busy or do we want to make an impact?
Let’s just pretend for a moment that for an entire day, you were completely disconnected from all forms of communication via your phone and laptop. No emails, no social media, no texts from your boss or coworkers. My guess is that this last sentence left a lot of you feeling anxious and panicked. But taking a day off should make you feel the opposite – relaxed, well-rested and reenergized. Unfortunately, a lot of us prioritize success and constant availability over our physical, mental and emotional health. We dedicate all too many waking moments to work that we skip meals, forget to move our bodies and ignore our body’s warning signs of burnout.
So how do we take a step back and prioritize rest as much as we do success?
Make a Schedule for Your Devices – Just like we set expectations for ourselves when we are ‘on’ during the workday, we should also set an expectation for our ‘off’ hours and schedule time away from our devices. But if an entire day seems scary, start small. Even unplugging for two hours a day is a step toward feeling free from the constant buzz of your phone. Unplugging will also allow you to take time and evaluate how things are going both at work and in your personal life. When we are constantly running from one thing to the next, we don’t take the time to assess whether our efforts and habits are in fact impactful, meanfulful and efficient. A good start? Set an expectation that you will not attend to emails or put your phone away after 7 p.m. so you can give your brain a rest and reflect on the day.
Find Your Outlet – When most people think of rest, their minds go to a day of mindlessly binge-watching a Netflix series or long bubble baths. But rest is different for everyone, you just need to find one (or a few) activities that give your brain a break and leave you feeling relaxed and reenergized! For me, the most effective downtime involved some sort of physical exertion. A run or long walk with a podcast, a yoga class or a bike ride helps me to balance the day’s more brain-intensive work and restore mental energy. For you? It could be meditation, journaling, reading a book, calling a friend or trying out a new recipe. Find something that allows you to clear your head and make it a daily priority – your brain will thank you!
Plan for Vacation – So you have some vacation days to use, but the thought of stepping away from your phone and laptop screen causes your hands to sweat with anxiety, I get it. We are so used to staying connected at all hours of the day and taking a day (or week) off can seem almost impossible with your never ending to-do list. This is why it’s necessary to plan out your vacation days. Studies show that there is a strong recognition in over 80% of American workers that planning time off makes it easier to use the vacation days they earn, yet less than half of those people actually take the time to plan their vacations each year. Committing yourself to vacation and rest well in advance helps prepare yourself, your to-do list and your team for your absence. Sit down and plan out your next day (or week!) of rest. I love a destination vacation, but not all vacations have to break the bank! Is there family or a friend you’ve been meaning to visit? A day-long yoga retreat you’ve had your eye on? Or a new coffee shop you’ve wanted to try out? Pick some dates and commit to taking the time for yourself.
I am the first person to admit that resting can sometimes feel harder than tackling the busy schedule, and hustling because you get to work on something you are passionate about is not a bad thing. But taking time to rest, refocus, and recharge is essential in order to perform at your highest potential. At the end of the day, we can all agree that we don’t want to spend our lives rushing through life’s motions only to (finally) rest our head at night feeling stressed, overtired and unfulfilled. Take a few minutes to evaluate how you are spending your time and where you could dedicate some of it to taking care of yourself. Whether that looks like a few hours or a few days, your brain, body and business will thank you!
Photo: Katie Cannon Photography