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Out of Our Minds
Friday, July 08, 2005 1:21 PM
Vacation? What vacation?
Curt Rosengren on Life

John at The Carrot points to a Mother Jones article with some interesting statistics that suggest we're not altogether adept at slowing down.

Some of the factoids in the article...

* last year, Americans forfeited an average of 3 paid vacation days - 415 million days total - a 50% increase over 2003

* the value of unredeemed frequent-flyer miles is $700 billion, exceeding the value of U.S. dollars in circulation

* middle-aged men who skip vacation for five years increase their risk of heart attack by 30%

* the RAND Corporation in California now gives its employees a 5% bonus if they use all of their vacation days

* 32% of paid vacation time is spent doing non-vacation activities

* 30% of employees do office-work during vacation

* 43% return feeling overwhelmed by the work they have to do

How about you? Do you take all the vacation that's coming to you? Does work creep into your vacation? Do you feel like you got hit by a Mack truck when you sit down at your desk again?


Troy Worman - 7/11/2005 3:19:45 PM
Yes! I do take all the vacation that is coming to me. No! Work does not creep into my vacation. No! I do not feel like I get hit by a Mack truck when I sit down at my desk again.

Yes. No. And no. Why? Certainly not because of any genius on my part. Ten years ago, before I met my wife, my answers would have been... No. No. And Yes. Why? Because I was foolish. I thought all committed company men left vacation days sitting on the table. I had the committed part right.

Fortunately, I met my wife when I did. She straightened me out pretty quick. And so... without further ado, I reveal my super secret success tip of the millenium... get married.

Of course, this tip is for men only.
Janet Auty-Carlisle - 7/11/2005 9:32:20 AM
Interesting points. I owned my own relocation firm for many years. Many of my clients were moving with their corporation from Europe or other areas to North America. They often commented on the issue of vacations as they had heard we don't 'do' vacations in North America. In other countries it is customary, and expected, that there will be at least a four week vacation every summer. It is just assumed. Oddly enough the corporate survives very well and the people are much more content. It was difficult to tell them that this scenario is not the case over here and in fact they would have to work even longer hours than usual. On a personal level I am very good at taking time off. I have many hobbies and interests and have no problem closing up for the day to enjoy them. I have just returned from a four day weekend up north with 11 girlfriends! It was our 16th annual summer weekend and it was a blast....all we did was relax and everybody managed quite well with that. Here's hoping everybody gets the chance to enjoy some of our great summer and just 'chill' for a while. Still living la vida fearless....are you? Janet Auty-Carlisle
Kevin - 7/9/2005 8:29:32 AM
There are a lot of cool ways to show what you're talking about Stacy. In Margaret Heffernan's cover story for this month's issue of Worthwhile, she focuses on the software developers for SAS, who work only 35 hours a week. The company claims that the rational workweek is a significant factor both in its miniscule 3% employee turnover rate (duh!) and the fact that SAS doesn't need to employ 3 testers for each programmer, as Microsoft does.

As Margaret points out, pure hourlogging is an old-economy yardstick that we keep trying to retrofit to the idea economy.
Stacy Brice - 7/8/2005 11:33:17 PM
Hey, Curt :)

I haven't worked a 40-hour week since 1993, when I decided to not work Fridays. I owned the business, I reckoned I could make the rules.

I take plenty of long(er)weekends (case in point, today through next Tuesday in celebration of my 42nd birthday), go away for 7-10 days several times each year (as I'll do in early August when we go to our cabin on Lac St Jean in Quebec), and for the past five years, I've taken a sabbatical every year.

Originally the sabbatical was five weeks long. Starting last year, the entire last quarter of the year.

I'm fortunate in that I've built a company that runs with me or without me. The folks at AssistU like having me around, but they like when I'm gone, too, because in the times that I'm away, highly creative stuff happens, and I always return ready to create and implement new stuff that will benefit our customers/community members.

One of the other upsides to my time-off routine is that I get my husband to take oodle of time off work, too (he's employed elsewhere, and has lots and lots of vacation and personal time available to him each year). As a result, he's happier at with his job, and reports being more productive when he's actually at work.

There's a quote I cut out of a magazine that hangs in my office to remind me to move away from the office at the end of the day. I don't know who to attribute it to, but it goes like this:

'If you work 20 hours a day, your product will be crap.'

I wish fewer people would buy into the lie that they have to work harder, faster, and longer in order to be successful. It simply isn't true.


Mark Sicignano - 7/8/2005 9:44:19 PM
It's certainly easier said than done. It's been 5 years since I first read 'Peopleware' by Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister. They explain how >40-hour work weeks usually result in lost productivity when they happen regularly. Since then I've kept up my reading on being effective, leading a simpler life, being more balanced, and yet I am still a workaholic most of the time.

How do you 'just do it'? What am I lacking? ...Do I just need more will power to just 'turn off' the work and force myself to relax more often?

The thing is, I absolutely agree with the logic behind 'resting' your mind, and the importance of having hobbies that have nothing to do with your work, and I preach to my business partner all of the time that he should take off and not thing about work for a while and then when he comes back on Monday, he'll be more creative and energized. But then I go home and spend > 1/2 of my weekend working.

I need an electric fence around my computer and a shock collar to wear on the weekends. The thing is, I'm trying to get a business into orbit, and I make up for our lack of resources by putting in extra effort.


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