Many of us have had our summer vacation plans cancelled due to the pandemic. Perhaps you planned to visit family or take your annual beach vacation. Or maybe you were scheduled to celebrate a milestone with big trip — a food and wine tour of France or an African safari. Whatever your thwarted plans entailed, you might be thinking of skipping a vacation altogether. And given that productivity has been hampered for many of us over the last few months, it’s easy to think, “I should keep working, so I can get more done,” or “What’s the point? I can’t really go anywhere.”
Don’t give in to this limited thinking. Several studies indicate that performance nose-dives when we work for extended periods without a break. In addition, the benefits of taking a vacation are clear: It results in improved productivity, lower stress and better overall mental health. It also spurs greater creativity — for example, Lin-Manuel Miranda conceived of Hamilton while on vacation.
Research on elite athletes shows that rest is what enables them to perform at peak levels, and the same is true for us. Taking a vacation allows us to come back feeling refreshed and recharged, with renewed focus. Some companies are even requiring employees to take time off. Vacations may even help your personal bottom line: Research shows that those who take more than 10 days of vacation are 30% more likely to receive a raise, and those who take regular vacations have greater job satisfaction.
While your plans will likely look different than before, below are some guidelines to help you reap the benefits of vacation, wherever you go.
Get a change in scenery. Vacation doesn’t need to entail extensive travel. The fun of it is going somewhere that is different from your daily life. This may be a short drive from home, an extended road trip, or an excursion to the other side of town. One friend rented a beach house for her family 10 miles from her home. A team member rented an RV with her family and drove to the mountains with another family. (Each family had their own RV and got tested for Covid-19 before leaving.) Another colleague took a solo weekend a few hours outside his city at an Airbnb to read and reflect. Another team member planned gourmet food excursions in her own city, seeking out the best versions of her favorite foods in different neighborhoods across town.
Plan ahead. While a spontaneous getaway can be exciting, research shows that the stress of poorly planned vacations can eliminate the positive benefits of time off. In particular, planning a month ahead and focusing on the details in advance versus figuring things out while on vacation has been shown to result in a better vacation experience with more positive outcomes. Planning ahead also gives us something to look forward to — something that Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, says not only makes us feel good, but also adds an “atmosphere of growth” to our lives and makes us optimistic. Even if you’re only going across town, you can still identify which days you’re going to take off and plan what you’re going to do in advance.