By Don Goewey
Many of us are not taking our vacation time. Instead of taking time to renew, the Harris Poll says most of us are working harder than ever, an average 49 hours a week. We are putting in 100-200 more hours per year than our parents. We sleep less than our parents did; one to two hours less. Those are averages; you might be working more and sleeping less than that.
More than one in three of us forfeit vacation time. We talk about vacations, plan them, dream about them and then fail to take one. As much as a half billion vacation days will go unused this year. That equates to nearly two million years of lost vacation time. If we do take a vacation, we take work with us. A survey found that 92% of those away on vacation frequently check in with the office. If that weren’t not bad enough, the American Dietetic Association found that 35% of us never take a break while at work. We eat lunch at our desk working at our computer, returning emails and phone calls, or organizing our desk.
Believe it or not, breaks are an important element in peak performance. Researchers found that activity in the hippocampus and neocortex increased during periods of wakeful rest, especially after learning something new. The hippocampus and neocortex generate everything we think of as intelligence. Another way of saying this is: refusing to take a break is a decision to be stupid that day. Refusing vacation is a decision to grow dumber in the coming year.
Why Do We Skip Vacation?
We skip vaction because we worry that the person next to us will get ahead while we’re gone. Or we’re afraid that the work piling up on our desk will put us so far behind that we’ll never catch up. If we look deeper, we might see a mix of paranoia and obsessive-compulsivity behind these concerns, neurologically generated by stress. As our stress level spills over the top, which is usually a month before vacation time, it floods our brain with stress hormones. These hormones erode the higher brain function that sustains peak performance. Learn More »