Do Vacations Add Balance?

2009 May 15
by Sam Davidson

Creative Commons License photo credit: Giorgio Montersino

A lot of us look forward to those one or two weeks a year when we get to go on vacation. Whether we decide to head for the beach, spend time at Disney World or go visit grandma, we pencil that time in on our calendar and wait with eagerness until we get to take time off and do anything but work.

But that seems to happen less and less. Not only are more Americans not using all of their vacation time, many are even working on vacation. This particularly seems to be a trend among Generation Y.

Some of what may be happening is that our notion of down time and time off is changing. With the rise of telecommuting and even flextime, not only is the idea of a 9-to-5 disappearing, but so is the idea of taking two weeks ‘off.’ Add the phenomenon of being always connected with wi-fi, Web-based phones and laptops and working from anywhere can turn into working from everywhere.

Therefore, what’s a corporate idealist to do when it comes to vacations and work/life balance?

Before, that time off helped us all stay sane and added a little bit of balance to our work. Not spending 40 hours a week at the office once in a while helped us understand why it is we work. We spent so much time at the office in order to pay for the food, lodging and transportation for the two weeks a year we were out of the office. But if you’re doing work during this time, what’s the point?

I recently returned from a ‘vacation.’ I put that word in quotes because as an entrepreneur, my schedule is largely dictated by me, and because I did in fact do some work while in sunny Florida. So if it wasn’t a vacation is the traditional sense of the word, does it even count?

If we’re chasing balance in work and in life, of course it counted. Here’s why:

  • Balance is being redefined. Lots of work-related words are getting new meanings, and balance is one of them. I don’t mind spending an hour or so online while away if it means I can have a happier work schedule the rest of the year. If I didn’t work for myself, maybe I really could unplug. But what I’d lose in autonomy wouldn’t be worth a simple unplugging at the resort.
  • Why unplug? A lot of time I spend online is enjoyable, like reading blogs, catching up with friends and watching video. So, some writing here and there isn’t a big deal because it’s sandwiched by a lot of pleasure.
  • I love my work. This keeps me happy year-round, so having to do something when I’m not in Nashville isn’t a huge burden because what I do is rewarding and meaningful.

If you find yourself working on vacation, or wondering why it is you even take a vacation, consider how it makes your life balanced. And, don’t wait for a few weeks a year to enjoy a little downtime. Take a day off, spend the afternoon outside, or plug in and boot up when you’re at the beach. Small respites can be as rewarding as longer trips, and you may not have as much to catch up on when you get back.

How do you use your downtime to maintain balance? And how do you juggle your vacation time in order to stay balanced at work and in life? Let us know in the comments.

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