Episode 5: Taking the Stress out of Taking a Vacation

You know, today we’re going to talk about a subject matter that I know is near and dear to most of my listeners. Vacation time, we’re going to talk a little bit about how do we structure time so that we can maximize the enjoyment, the rejuvenation, the benefits of a real vacation. I’m talking about the one where you don’t take the iPad, or the phone with you to the beach. You’re left alone for just a few days. Let the mind rest, rejuvenate yourself, as I said, and come back to your office, or your place of employment ready to take on the world, be a more creative person. What does a vacation look like for you? You know one of those things that I always love to do is plan my year in advance. And today’s podcast we’re going to tell you some things that you can do, some strategies to implement that will help you become better at planning for your rest.

Yeah, you heard me right, planning for your rest. So first and foremost, let’s talk about the importance of a vacation for individuals in the United States. First and foremost, the vacation days taken by U.S. workers hit an all-time level high in 2017 since the year 2010. Workers in the U.S. took an average of 17 point days in 2017, which is the highest level in seven years, according to research in CNBC magazine. This is critical and important for several reasons. First and foremost, Americans waste 658 million vacation days a year. American workers took slightly more vacation days in 2015 when they were up 16.2 days from 16 days in 2014, but still are not taking their full available vacation hours. This unused vacation time in the U.S. alone cost 255 billion dollars of missed economic opportunity that had the potential to create 1.9 million jobs. So this has become a critical issue for the United States and employers. 35% of Americans, according to a Take Family Vacation poll, will take a vacation or were planning to take a vacation in 2018 according to this AAA survey, that those 35% were going to vacation 50 miles or more away from home. And this involved two or more immediate family members. So this is showing a trend upward, that Americans are taking their vacation time, gaining the much-needed rest that they need to be productive citizens.

Let’s talk just a few minutes, let’s set ourselves up for success for a great vacation. First, let’s look at the budget. You know we leave town many times on the spur of the moment, we don’t really plan these things. We just take off and go on a short trip. I’m talking about though, the vacation here that gives you the realization of your dreams. I’m talking about a vacation that gives you a lifetime of memories for your family and for yourself. Let’s recall, just a moment, my daughters 16th birthday. She always dreamed of going to Paris, France. This would be a very big trip for our family. Most of our vacations had been in the Caribbean, the Northern Hemisphere, been to Hawaii, mainly in the United States and the southern provinces of Canada. This was a bigger trip, this was over the mighty Atlantic, landing in Paris, France to see some of the sights of the world’s best museums, some of those homes of kings that had been built centuries ago. So this was a goal for our family. We started planning this goal a year in advance. When she made this known to us at her 15th birthday party, her mother and I asked, what would you like to do for your 16th birthday party? This is a big, big time in your life. It didn’t take my daughter long to answer, I want to go to Paris, France. Her eyes lit up, her voice a little higher pitched. Her face a smile so wide that you could see it a mile away. So as her dad, I had to make this happen. So first and foremost, I looked at our budget. And looked at a goal of planning to fly the family to Paris, France, and spend approximately two weeks in France, enjoying what they have to offer.

So do you actively reserve or save funds for your vacations? This is a critical key to having a successful vacation without having the worry of financial stress when you return. There is nothing worse to ruin a great vacation then to come back home and get that first credit card bill and to realize, oh my goodness, now I have stress. What are your options for a vacation? Not all of us have to travel to Europe or overseas to enjoy a vacation. Many of our family vacations, when we were a much younger family, were enjoyed in the oceans of the Gulf of Mexico, or we’d go to California and we’d enjoy the Pacific coast. Much cooler water. We’d even go to the east coast and just enjoy off the east coast of Florida, the beaches and the nice sand that you can have there. Sometimes we would, in the early part of our marriage, have what are called staycations. These are opportunities where I would plan a week’s worth of activities at home or very short periods of travel from our home to enjoy daily events. This allowed us still to unplug, utilize a very minimal budget, but still have the rest and relaxation we were craving so that we could go back into our careers and have a very positive time. You see, the purpose of vacations is that we need to relieve the stress or the prospect of taking time off from our mind and just be in the moment. You know, this is the opposite effect that a vacation should have on our psychological or physical health. The opposite is, if you’re on that beach holding up a book, reading a great story, your mind is no longer plugged into the stress of the day to day operations of whatever you do to make your living or enjoy your life.

So I’d like to ask you to do a little exercise with me this morning. Take a blank piece of paper and a pen out for this short exercise. Assume for the exercise that money, time, and resources are unlimited. So if those three resources were unlimited, where would you go? What would you do when you got there, what would you take with you to record those moments of history that you’re going to be making with your family. How long would you stay? What climate do you prefer to get your optimum rest? Are you an adventurer that loves the rugged outdoor activities while on vacation or are you the relaxer that buys the perfect mystery novel to enjoy while basking in the sun? How about the history fan that explores the area, learns the past making copious notes of all those things that you didn’t know before so you could include them in your journal when you return. What if I told you that your health truly depended on you taking a vacation? Does that give enough rise to the issue of importance?

The critical thing here is is this, these questions we pose to you before will only give you some ideas, some strategies or application maybe to enjoy your time of rest and relaxation. But you define what that is. You define what you enjoy most. You see, vacations are defined differently depending on your country of residence. In the United States, we generally receive two weeks of vacation each year when we accept our first professional position of employment. In addition to this paid time off, many of us receive paid holidays, such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, etc. Obviously those in public civil service, policemen, firefighters, emergency responders of all types, don’t enjoy the holiday season with time off each year as others do in different types of occupations. And aren’t we glad they do. Shout out to all of our first responders, police, firemen and so forth.

So it’s conceivable, that an employee of a U.S. based company may actually work 40 to 49 weeks per year when starting their first full time employment. Let’s look at the cultural demands of other countries, when pertaining to vacations. I have friends living in Canada. I always love to speak with them and learn about their culture and learn about the differences of what they do in their employment and what is traditional for them. So I asked them, what is the tradition and what is the expectation for employment vacations in Canada. And did you know that the vacation policy in Canada is unique to that of the United States in that it is governed by provincial law, unless the employee falls under federal jurisdiction or works if you will for the government the typical Canadian employee will receive 10 paid vacation days and 9 paid holidays for a total of 19 paid days off per year. In Europe, employers are mandated to offer at least 20 days off paid leave per year. Now this is very interesting. When I meet my European friends at meetings, the expectations of paid time off are discussed. And they simply state that they enjoy a very rewarding system of employment. One of the reasons for such length of time given off is that the employees health is a priority for their country and their employer.

Many of the health issues facing the United States today, such as hypertension, stress, heart disease, obesity, are a direct result of failing to allow our minds and bodies to recover from the work we do for our careers. When I started my career as a CPA it was considered a badge of honor for us as individuals who recorded the most chargeable hours in a given year or who worked the most hours in a given year. My first years in accounting I worked a total of 2800 hours. This is 720 more hours than the average employee in America. So let me give you some perspective. This is 14.4 hours per week assuming a 50 week work year, this is 14.4 hours more than an average employee works in a week. In other words, this is almost 2 full days of work over and above what most people expect in a work week. I’m not stating this to sound as if I’m a workaholic, actually I believe in a work smarter, not harder philosophy these days. Our own companies revenue grow on an average of 33% per year with the following schedule. Each team member of our company works 36 hours per week giving them Friday afternoons off for personal matters. Doctor, dental visits, hair appointment, automobile repairs, etc. We also provide a new team member with 2 weeks of paid time off, 11 paid holidays, the Friday after Thanksgiving off with pay, their birthday off with pay, and of course bereavement time off with pay. You see, the purpose of this information is not to brag about our policy or how rich it is in terms and respect to our team, but to provide a guide that you may utilize if you’re an entrepreneur or business owner. The most important investment in any business is your team. Personally our company espouses a family first policy, this simply means that our team members schedule family functions as a priority on our company calendar. In other parts of Europe, the generosity of the employers is even better than previously mentioned. So for example, a French or Danish worker, they can expect a statutory 36 days a year of paid vacation including public holidays, compared with only 28 days for workers in the U.K. or 34 days for workers in Sweden. As you can see a big difference for European outlook for vacation and the U.S. outlook.

So what are some simple steps we can take to improve the quality of our time away from work? Step one, schedule your time away from work as soon as the idea arrives in your head. Speaking as my daughter did at the age of 15 at her birthday party informed us of what she wanted as her dream vacation when she was 16 to celebrate her birthday. I immediately went to work and put it on the calendar to make it happen. Remember, what gets on the calendar and scheduled gets done. For example, I plan each day of the year as to its type of service or work that I will perform. As a member of Strategic Coach, the entrepreneur coaching program led and founded by Dan Sullivan, I learned how important it was to be intentional about each day and it’s related activities. For example, in the fourth quarter of each calendar year, I will look forward in our company calendar and designate each day as either free or a vacation day if you will, focus those days where I will work on client matters or my top three methods of making revenue for the company or value, or buffer days, where I am working on other things such as activities that generate revenue but also grow my skill set, for example. Today’s podcast is focusing on the free days. Those days in which you seek rejuvenation, relaxation, and allow your mind body, and spirit the opportunity to recharge. So number one, schedule your time away as soon as the idea arrives in your head. Number two, communicate the importance of your time away from the office with your team. By educating your team on the value you place on free days, without disturbance or the approach of work related emails, calls, etc. you are laying the foundation for a very restful period. Number three, purposely lay out for yourself the best plans you have for a free day. Are you planning on a trip out of town, a staycation at your home, or a local library bookstore visit? What activities do you enjoy that give you energy and rejuvenation without any thoughts for your work? The purposeful intention is what the brain will set out to accomplish as long as we make the vision vivid enough for the day. And number four, most important. Honor your designated day for what you planned it to be. Work has a way of expanding into all of our lives everyday if we allow it. Free days are simply that, free from work, free from stress, free from email, free from calls, you get the point. The biggest pay off from a free day is the by product you receive. When you return to your work from a wonderful free day your team notices your energetic, creative, and most of all happy. So it’s critical that we respect, plan and carry out vacations that give us the opportunity to recharge those batteries. So you can be more and create a better atmosphere at your office, then just sitting there working 70 – 80 hours a week.

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