This is your four month warning: Schedule your vacation! If you are the type of person who uses all of your vacation days by January, this post may not make sense to you. However, I think we’ve all seen the stats that show Americans don’t use all of their vacation time. More and more, you hear people reference vacation time as a luxury. I hear things like “One of these days I’ll find room for some time off.” or “Your trip sounds nice, I’m trying to get a vacation in.”
Why are you “trying” to get a vacation in? It’s never going to plan itself. Hopefully,its part of your compensation. $X an hour/year, Y hours of sick time, and Z hours of vacation. If you don’t use it, its your fault. If your work is keeping you from your vacation, then I suggest your make vacation a priority. If you are discouraged from leaving for time off, perhaps you should consider looking for a new job. Its just waiting for you, so take it. Now lets be clear, I’m talking about time away from work. Traveling is a great way to spend time out of the office, but it is not mandatory. If staying home makes more sense, there is plenty you can do to clear your mind and recharge.
This was a big problem for me when I was starting out. I put in all sort of hours in the name of “paying my dues”. I didn’t have a family to take anywhere, my close relatives lived nearby and I didn’t want to miss the chance to accomplish more. I used to only take bits and pieces around the end of the year, often after ignoring the issue until November. This was an acceptable way to use the vacation time, but ended up being a terrible way to recharge. I never truly disconnected and recharged my batteries. After a few years of this, I came to realize that if I didn’t take at least a few days off every once in a while, I lost track of what I was working for. Preferably, I look for at least one solid week out of the office.
It seems that those little distractions will always come up (that project form the big boss, a quarterly rollout,etc.). Hold your ground and anticipate what you can. In the meantime, take responsibility for your own time away from you work, and please, please, stop waving around your unused vacation as a badge of honor. After all, hours worked doesn’t really show how effective you are, its what you’ve produced.