The Most Effective Times to Take Vacation to Avoid Burnout
Admittedly, I did not have the smoothest transition re-entering corporate America after graduating with my master degree. I'm an idealist (or INJF) with a slight twist of pessimism. According to my 16personalities profile:
INFJs are likely to prioritize harmony and cooperation over ruthless efficiency, encouraging a good, hardworking atmosphere and helping others when needed.
Therefore, it is to no surprise that I tend to find corporate politics draining— especially the negative aspects of corporate politics. By the second half of 2016, the stress from constantly dealing with corporate politics in my office really started to seep into my personal life. There were even a few times I found it very difficult to crawl out of bed to drive the 10 minutes to my office, solely from the that fact I felt burned out from my workload plus having to deal with (or even just witness) office politics. This was my motivation for promising myself to utilize my paid time off from work on a regular basis!
At the beginning of 2017, I promised myself 2 things: 1) I will travel more; and 2) I will spend more time with my family in hopes of recovering, regaining clarity, and avoiding future burnouts. Thus far, I have made good with keeping my promise. Shockingly, I even have a more positive outlook on my current work environment and my future career. As a result of my promise, here is a list of vacations that I’ve been on so far in 2017:
January: My husband and I went to NYC for a good friend’s Harlem Renaissance Birthday Bash.
February: I planned a staycation to celebrate my husband’s new job. We stayed at a new hotel in downtown Houston—made complete with a rooftop Texas shaped lazy river.
March: I visited my family in Florida where I got to spend time with my parents, grandpa, aunt and uncle. A pleasant surprise was that my aunt and cousins were in town visiting too.
May: I went on my 1st international trip to South America with a group of my best gal friends! We spent 6 days, 5 nights visiting two regions in Costa Rica: Arenal Volcano La Fortuna & Playa Tamarindo. Also in May, my husband and I made a quick dash to Austin for a weekend getaway.
June: We have in the books a trip to California to visit my sister in LA.
July: My husband and I will celebrate our 1 year marriage anniversary. We aren’t sure where we are going yet, but it will be epic I’m sure!
After all of my vacations, I noticed there were several times that served more effective for reducing my work-related stress. As a young professional, and heck even as we mature in our careers, we should definitely seek to take advantage of these periods of time for our vacations in addition to other vacation periods. If you are limited on vacation time, you should totally plan to escape the office around at least two of the following seasons!
There are several reasons why you should consider taking a vacation immediately before the busy period. First, time off will help to lower your already climbing stress levels. Immediately before the April state reporting season at my job, I visited my parents in Florida. Spending quality time with my parents and extended family while enjoying the beach and sunshine allowed me to truly clear my mind and detox. Second, vacations can be one of the best times to think creatively and find renewed vision. I don’t encourage you to obsess over your job during your time off. However, there will be issues or tasks that you know will need to focus when you return to the office environment. A session of yoga, that refreshing margarita, or reading a book may be the key to finding the solution to solve that big problem. For instance, I read Ambition in Black and White: The Feminist Narrative Revised and learned several strategies that I need to implement to feel more in control of my career, including strategies to find a career sponsor.
Lastly, a quick vacation right before the busy season will remind you not to take yourself so seriously. During busy periods, it is so easy to find yourself lost in the weeds of work. Lighten up some, and reminiscence on your life outside of work as a pleasant reminder that you are not your job. I definitely did this throughout the reporting season. This April, I had to create reporting templates for my department— that's 20+ projects ya’ll— and report on two multi-million dollar projects both with large organizational footprints, while collaborating with a team of graduate students to prepare for the creation of one project’s sustainability plan. Because of my prior vacation, I found that I was able to make it through reporting season fairly breezy. On the tough days, I thought about my life outside of work. To sweeten the pot, I also daydreamed about my upcoming trip to Costa Rica.
Sometimes the busy season can be rough and exhausting. Chances are you have been keeping up with priorities and letting the small, non-time sensitive or non-urgent request pile up. Have you ever tried to balance your normal workload and those small items immediately after a stressful, busy season? It is tempting to think that after the busy season that you need to immediately play catch up. But be honest: How productive were you immediately after your busy season? Were you happy or just as stressed as the week before?
Instead of hunkering down in your office or cube for another extended period to catch up, consider taking a vacation or even making a day trip to melt your stress away. Reward yourself for your hard work to the pleasantries that you enjoy the most: spa day and brunch with your best friend, tasting menu paired with wine at a fancy restaurant you’ve been eyeing, a weekend getaway at an all-inclusive beach resort. With just an extended weekend immediately after a busy season, you should be able to get back into your regular, workflow and knock off those action items that piled up quicker; this time with less residual stress.
In addition to playing catch up on smaller tasks, May launched the big push to create not one but two polished sustainability plans for my projects. What was also upcoming in May was my ladies’ trip to Costa Rica! Honestly, I also never imagined that hiking through a rainforest would be so invigorating. Immersing myself in a completely different culture and the scenery was the ultimate separation from work that I needed. When I returned back to work, I felt ready to attack the next few months. Pura Vida indeed! I am so focused on being thankful for what I have in life and letting the negativity bounce off me.
Holiday weekends are perfect to take advantage regardless if your vacation time is limited or generous. Yes, travel may be more expensive. But, we work and we are grown! Therefore, we can learn to budget! Check out a quick guide on how to save for a vacation here! Plus your vacation days are worth more than saving $200-300 on a flight! As I mentioned, my husband and I made a quick sprint over to Austin to really live it up. We spent lots of time enjoying the rooftop pool during our hotel stay at the W Austin. We also got to enjoy patio dinner at Perla’s— one of Austin’s top-ranked seafood houses. We went to observe the bats on South Congress Street Bridge… though underwhelming because the bats didn’t really come out due to the wind. Lol. We also had the best ramen I've had in life; I cannot wait for Ramen Tatsu-Ya to come to Houston! I thoroughly enjoyed this trip! What made it even better is that I didn’t have to use a vacation day either because of the Memorial Day weekend!
Pre- or Post-Holiday "Dead" Periods
During the week of Thanksgiving and between Christmas and New Year’s, you may be the most tempted to go on vacation. After all, most of everyone else in your department will be gone. But consider this... While sticking around the office during the holiday dead periods, you can peacefully get your own priorities accomplished without having to report back to many others. You can be a little more leisurely with your breaks because you won't feel like a hawk is watching you. Now, I’m not saying go on 3-hour siestas. What I am saying is that many of us are hesitant to be away from our offices for more than 15 minutes. Personally, I absolutely hate automatic lights for this reason. HA!
Research suggests that to maximize productivity employees should take a 15-20 minute break every 50-90 minutes of work. Here is some extra motivation for you to consider sticking around: airlines and hotels typically slash prices immediately after the holidays to encourage additional travelers. For instance, my husband and I are heading to LA to visit my sister next weekend (the weekend after Memorial Day) and our tickets were cheaper than the usual weekend venture.
BONUS... The Day After Your Birthday
Long story short, I have a project employee who takes off for her birthday and the day after every year. Whenever her birthday comes around regardless of what is going on around the office, her vacation days are always granted no questions asked. However, why not take off the day after your birthday instead. Now, hear me out! If you are feeling yourself on your birthday, this may be one of the most productive days for you. Why not spread your good vibes, and complete some large action items.
On your birthday there may even be cake, a celebratory lunch with your boss, or flowers from your significant other waiting at your desk! Plus, your coworkers will likely treat you nicer on this day. Lastly, once you leave work, you can celebrate however you please and not have to worry about dragging yourself into the office the next morning. When taking off the day after your birthday, you will likely accrue some positive work memories in your memory bank and still get to enjoy the next day as you please while continuing to ride the feel-good wave. If that is not enough to persuade you to take off the day after your birthday in lieu of your birthday, take off both anyway to make it your own personal mini-holiday!