Machines are a valuable asset to any workplace. Automated conveyors, fillers, and sealers never tire or make errors. Computers don’t complain about handling a lot of dull, repetitive tasks.
Yet over time, all machinery breaks down. Even the heavy-duty DD15 needs an overhaul kit replacement after logging 700,000 miles.
People make mistakes. We can be slow to learn, our performance and efficiency may waver, and we tend to grumble about matters great and small. It’s our nature. But where machines need maintenance and repair, all we require is adequate rest.
The trouble is, many people don’t even know how to properly utilize their allowed time off
Not all rest is equal
Naturally, our bodies have evolved to ensure that we get to rest, one way or another. We have sleep cycles and biorhythms to create undulating patterns of activity.
Within a day, there are highs and lows. We feel alert and energized at some times. Equally, there are moments when you feel drowsy: that’s the body, signaling that now might be a good time to rest.
These mechanisms operate all the time unless you have a sleep disorder, which is a completely different concern. Most of the people you work with aren’t going to turn up at the office without recharging daily.
However, there’s a difference between taking short-term breaks and actually stepping away from the daily grind. The former can be addressed through a good night’s sleep or even power naps. The latter requires you to take time off and enjoy a proper vacation.
Studies indicate that vacation time is positively correlated with better work performance, lower stress, and greater feelings of happiness.
Yet all too often, people fear the consequences of taking an extended break. They imagine it will hurt their career in the long term or create the impression that they aren’t working as hard. They think that the amount of time you get to rest from day to day is sufficient.
The skill of vacation planning
This should concern everybody in any workplace. If you’re one of those who never take a vacation, you’re hurting your success prospects. If you have colleagues who don’t know any better, their subpar performance could be bringing the team down. It will definitely be increasing your share of the workload.
Here’s another closely related problem: most of us don’t really know how to plan our vacations the right way.
This is largely a matter of habit or lack thereof. Work may be exhausting, but at least our daily routines give us structure. Faced with the prospect of a week or two away from the office, our minds must decide what to do with all that time.
Without practice, we find it difficult to plan a vacation. Thus, we tend to let work sneak back into our days in various ways by checking emails and messages. Or we do attempt to go somewhere but end up not enjoying the experience or finding the travel ordeal too stressful.
The good news is that vacation planning is a skill. With a little practice and knowledge, and you’ll get better.
The art of restoration
Research into the restorative qualities of vacations has shown that we benefit the most when the experience is modeled after what psychologists know as attention restoration theory.
This underlying mechanism suggests that to maximize the benefits of vacations, certain attributes must be met.
One of these characteristics to look for is fascination. A vacation setting must be effortlessly engaging. This removes the need to direct your attention and remove distractions, freeing up more energy.
Together with fascination, your environment must have a great extent. It should be able to keep you engaged for a long time through rich content and structure. This extent must also exclude discord or chaos in the environment.
Another feature to look for is distance. This has to be both physical and mental. You can have a fascinating and immersive experience by playing video games for an entire week, for instance. But the virtual environment really isn’t distant from your daily grind.
Finally, your vacation has to be compatible with your personal inclinations. Most people think that heading to the beach and lazing around is the definition of relaxing. But if that’s honestly not your type of activity or setting, don’t expect to reap the rewards. Your ideal environment could be a museum or art gallery instead.
If you consider these factors, vacation planning actually becomes simple because you clear many options off the table. Teach this skill to the people you work with, and you’ll benefit from being part of a happier, more effective group.