Time Away From Work: Don’t fool yourself; vacations are essential

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For someone who complains about work as much as I do, you would think I would have a much easier time going on vacation. I mean, vacation seems like a wonderful thing in principle, but when it comes right down to it, it’s hard to pull myself away from the office for longer than a couple of days at a time.
This isn’t good. Even I realize that. In fact, if I ran my own company I would make vacations mandatory for everyone. I think they are healthy and essential to maintaining balance in your life and vibrancy and passion in your work.

So why can’t I just relax and spend two weeks in a tropical paradise? Tripp Friedler knows. Friedler, a financial consultant and estate planner, has studied why people don’t take vacations and he comes up with some unsettling conclusions in his new book Free Gulliver: Six Swift Lessons in Life Planning (Trost Publishing). Many of us deceive ourselves into believing we can’t afford to take vacations, or we’re too busy in our jobs to take time off. Most people, he says, don’t even know they do that.

Friedler says some people use the excuse that they can’t afford to take a vacation, even though they are often comfortable financially. “Many people drift into a lifestyle that takes every cent of their paycheck without ever considering whether that’s what they really want,” he says. “Of course, you may well decide that the new car is more important than two weeks exploring America’s national parks. Hey, at least you’ll know it’s your choice.”
Some people let their egos develop a self-importance that convinces them that others can’t survive at work without them. Friedler says no one is that important and everyone can find time to take at least a short vacation.

“You may have to do some creative juggling and delegating, but if a vacation is a priority for you, you can make it work,” he says. “Besides, if you’re truly the cog around which the rest of the company turns, all the more reason you need a vacation. They’ll just have to make do without you.”

But maybe the most dysfunctional reason for not going on vacation is because you’re more comfortable at work than with your family. Friedler says some executives fall into this trap, and while he’s not trying to force them to form a better relationship with their families, they need to be aware of
how their behavior affects other family members.

Vacations are highly prized in our society. A survey last year by MetLife found that vacations were the benefit most highly valued by the 1,542 workers it surveyed. Those individuals rated vacations ahead of pensions, health insurance and disability insurance as an employee benefit. Sixty-four percent of those polled ranked vacation time as their most valuable benefit.

So there’s little question that workers recognize that vacations are essential in today’s world. “Most people need a sense of balance, and working nonstop without a break isn’t the answer,” says Friedler. “And that’s what’s so great about drilling down and gaining clarity on your vacation excuse. It makes you really think about how all the pieces—work, home, family, money management—come together. And self-exploration is the first step in crafting a life of passion.”