Last week, my wife and I vacationed in San Francisco. It was our first vacation since last April. I should have taken one last fall, but I was too busy on the work treadmill. I was caught in the PUSH trap: Persevere Until Something Happens. Unfortunately, I was also somewhat burned out, so it took me more effort to get the same results, which made me more tired, which required me to work even harder… Sound familiar?

By the time we left for San Francisco, I was a crispy critter – too much stress, for too long.

We decided to take the train instead of flying or driving. Our vacation started when we got on the train – no TSA stress, no traffic to fight, no worry about snow in the Siskiyous. 18 hours on the train, including overnight, from Portland to SF. LOTS of leg room, real reclining seats, so we were very comfortable. By the time we got to SF, I was already half-relaxed. We had a wonderful time! We walked a lot, we took buses and streetcars and cable cars. We saw sights and ate in restaurants. I turned on my phone briefly once a day to check for texts and voice mails from family. I did not listen to voice mails or look at e-mails or texts regarding business. My business partner assumed all responsibility for our firm.

After 9 days of total withdrawal, I re-entered the business world Sunday evening, refreshed, re-energized, and with a better perspective. That’s what vacations are all about – they benefit both the employee and the organization.

In this respect, people are surprisingly like machines – they both need scheduled downtime for maintenance. As the Mr. Goodwrench commercial stated, “Pay me now or pay me later!” I have relearned that vacations, like preventive maintenance, are a lot better strategy than running a person until we break. Thus, the “use it or lose it” vacation policy benefits the employee by forcing them to take time off before they burn out.

When was your last real vacation? And when is your next one?

Gary Langenwalter

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