Rest is a technology. – Tiffany Shlain
We know rest results in a refreshed brain and body, improves our sense of well-being and makes us more productive and efficient.
We know, but we don’t know. We’ve processed this information intellectually, but often with no resulting change in behavior. We don’t take that revitalizing break.
I’m not talking about a daily break or two at the water cooler or in the employee lounge, although that promotes a positive workday. I’m referring to vacation time, taking several days to several weeks away from work. Maybe even going somewhere.
This is not a uniquely American problem, but we in the U.S. are truly terrible at it. We don’t take time off or, if we do, we keep working while we’re away. One of my team recounted a “vacation” taken by her child’s father-in-law. For his 60th birthday, he reserved cabins at a lakeside resort for his entire family for a week—months in advance. When the celebration week arrived, he spent his days working in his cabin while his family recreated and availed themselves of the resort’s amenities.
A few years ago, Shawn Achor worked with the U.S. Travel Association on a special initiative and reported their findings. They discovered a correlation between taking vacation time and an increased likelihood of promotion, along with significant productivity improvements and managers perceiving that we are more productive because we are happier. Despite these positives, Americans are taking less vacation time than in most of the last half-century. Achor reminds us that if paid vacation time is part of our compensation package, we are essentially taking a pay cut when we don’t use it.
Perhaps we fear that if we unplug, we will appear to be dispensable. Or maybe our neural pathways to work are so strong that we don't know how to do anything but work, even when we are ‘on vacation.'
Maybe we use checklists and work to manage anxiety rather than managing our anxiety. It might also be that we just love our work.
This is me talking out loud to myself as I go on vacation next week. I will likely check my email a few times, but I have no deliverables this coming week. In fact, none until July 6th — 7th. If I start promising things to you during those days, please call me out.
Achor also reports that getting away is good, even far away. But if actual travel seems too challenging or expensive right now, staying close to home can provide an essential break, too. After two-plus years of Covid, the joys of the staycation may have run their course for many of you. Is there a destination within a hundred miles or so from home where you could genuinely take a break? From work and the daily routine too?
Use that time to rest. Do some things you don't usually do. Zoom out and play with your identity a little bit. Discover who you are when you aren't working. If you are struggling to unplug, consider this practice at being on a new S Curve. While you are on vacation, be on vacation.
No matter how much you love the S Curve you are on, your brain and body need to rest. So, go ahead and take that break!
Danny Ainge is our podcast guest this week; a former NBA superstar, coach, and longtime executive with the Boston Celtics, he recently moved to a CEO position with the Utah Jazz.
He shares his insights into professional basketball disruptions and their all-consuming nature. As a husband, father, and now grandfather, a step back to refocus on family has at times been essential. There are great lessons here that I find would apply to life and work.
As always, thanks for being here!
P.S. Next week – because I’m taking a break, no newsletter! There will be, though, a podcast episode from Emma Seppälä, fittingly on happiness!