Every year someone I know inevitably makes the comment about how overworked they are. I like to follow up their statement with one question: “How much PTO (paid time off) do you have?” Most of the time the response is well over two days of vacation. When I press them about why they do not disappear for a Friday or, better yet, take a week off, the response I commonly get back is either they are saving it in case they need it or just the thought of the amount work that stacks up while they are away is more stressful than the unhealthy work life balance they currently possess. When they do not use their paid time off they contribute to the already staggering statistic that U.S. employees typically leave about 429 million paid vacation days on the table every year.
I personally think one of the most beneficial things about taking some time off is allowing for a clarity break. I want to be clear: when I refer to taking PTO, I mean being completely off the grid; no email, no phone, and no clue about what is going on. Now I realize that most of the people that are reading this are either nodding in agreement or am thinking I am crazy, but please bear with me. When you are completely disconnected for a period of time a couple of things should happen.
The first thing you will notice is it feel like a weight is lifted off your shoulders (if you truly are disconnected and not cheating by skimming the emails as they float in). The relief of stress will change the way you think and problem solve. Think about past decisions you have had to make when you felt annoyed, angry, stressed or were in pain. Your mindset is different. Your patience is different. Literally the way you interpret everything is different. A few days being completely disconnected should help to reset your state of mind.
The other major reason to take a much needed clarity break is you will see the day to day items you deal with differently. When we are stressed or rushed we all tend to get into problem solving mode, or the more accurately defined fire-fighting mode, but that doesn’t always solve the real issue. When you remove yourself from the process you get a chance to see exactly what the intangibles are that you bring to the process. By completely disconnecting, it also puts both the team and the processes that you have built to the test. When you come back you will have a refreshed state of mind to easily identify what holes you need to plug or what team members need help.
So if you are an employee, takes some time off. You deserve it. The same applies to managers. I am sure your direct reports will thank you.