Oh! The Places You’ll Go—When You Plan!

Maybe I’ll go next year.
I should really hold off until I have someone to go with.
Would it be better to consider waiting for a leap year?

Ah, the excuses we make to put off vacation. Americans say time off is important to them—ranking it as a top benefit, second only to health care—but over half of employees still aren’t using all their earned time.

While we continue to make excuses, life is still happening. The weight of those excuses may be dragging us down in ways that are almost unrecognizable.

So, what’s stopping us?

There are several reasons employees report leaving time on the table. But every barrier, even the ever-present workload, can be lessened when we plan.

Work is important. In many ways, it shapes how we feel about ourselves. But it shouldn’t be the whole of our identities. We are consumed (and impressed) by busyness and convinced that our full schedules are netting out to a fulfilling life.

Every year Americans report that their vacation time is important to them (96% said so last year), and every year (at least since 2000) their actions don’t match this sentiment (662 million days went unused last year). It’s not that people are lying to themselves, but they are not prioritizing themselves.

We blindly accept meeting invites and add work requirements to the calendar until we find ourselves being bullied by our own schedules. The only way to take the power back is to be a better planner. Planning is powerful—and making vacation happen can be as a simple as adding it to the calendar. The majority (52%) of those who set aside time to plan out their vacation days take all of their time off and take longer breaks at once. Planning time off is also associated with increased happiness, well-being, performance, and job satisfaction.

Now I would like to pose the same question as above: What is stopping us?

I can’t possibly plan time off that far out…my boss would freak out if I asked off for multiple breaks at once…my company just doesn’t work that way…

The sweet foolishness of thinking we are the exception. I’m so sorry my dear friends, but you are in almost every instance the rule.

Yes, Americans say (somewhat sadly) that the boss is the most powerful influencer over their time, but the majority of business leaders are supportive of employees taking vacation. Ninety-three percent of managers say time off is important for their team. And I think you would be hard-pressed to find a manager who, given the option, would turn down a calendar with their team’s vacation planned out for the year. That lets them better plan company priorities and deliverables (and say yes to your request).

To review: Planning for vacation means taking that dream trip you keep putting off, it is something your boss is supportive of, it will lead to increased happiness, and BONUS: it may actually increase your chances of getting a raise or promotion.

Since I now assume you have your calendar out, here’s three steps you can take to go forth and vacation—you’ll be happier for it.

1. Determine how much time off you earn and have remaining to use by the end of the year.

2. Get to dreaming! Remember, you don’t have to have every day planned out. Give yourself more time to figure out details by blocking your calendar so you don’t lose the opportunity.

3. Put it on the official work calendar. Don’t forget to spread the word to your team and, when the time comes, put up an out of office message (you can even get creative with yours).

by Brittany Kemp