The last time I took consecutive days off was at the end of January when my friend and I went to New York. Even then, we left on a Thursday and we were back to work on Monday.
The last time I took a full week off was last October when I helped some family move into a new house on the other side of the state.
My friend and I had been doing a trip through Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks for awhile, and it seemed like something we could do relatively safely during COVID-19. We're both software engineers at big tech companies, and a lot of our conversation revolves around work. After months of working from home, and mounting pressures from new projects; we both decided it was time for a break.
Don't leave any of your vacation time on the table; your company doesn't need it. Now, if you need to save your vacation time for emergencies or you're able to cash it out and that's important to you... then this post is not for you 😇. This post is for the folks early enough in their career not to know that taking time off isn't taboo.
Get your ducks in a row (before you go)
It's really hard to just up and decide to not go to work for a full week. For me, I sent out notices to my team and adjacents a few months in advance (basically as soon as I knew I was going to take the time off).
The sooner you let folks around you know you're going to be gone, the less likely it is that they're going to schedule any important meetings while you're gone. If you're anything like me, it's hard to just leave things as they are and hope for the best. I know that in order for me to actually relax, I have to leave things in a good spot.
No matter your working environment, you need to do the needful ahead of time to make sure you're not worried about it before you go. If you're communicating where things are at with your manager and your team, they can help pick up the slack while or handle questions while you're away.
When you're gone, Be Gone
No Outlook. (I failed at this)
No quick questions.
No quick calls.
No "hate to bother you while you're out".
When you're gone. Be gone.
If you have any seniority in your organization, and you don't fully disconnect during your vacations; you send the signal to others that they're expected to be available during their vacations as well. Don't be that person.
TTR: Time To Relax
As we were on one of the longer legs of our trip, my friend pointed out how relaxing it is to have 3 day weekends now and again, but that the relaxation doesn't really last.
I have a theory that everyone has a TTR (Time To Relax) which is a threshold you have to hit before you're actually not thinking about work. For me, that threshold is very high.
Day 1: Leaving for vacation
- Talk about work
- Talk about what we're missing at work
- Talk about the fact that we're not working
Day 2: First day of vacation
- A little less work talk
- Talk about the sights
Day 3: It's setting in
- Nerd talk, but not necessarily work talk
Day 4: I should do this more often
- Wow, those trees are really pretty! Look at the reds!
Having a three or four day weekend here or there is nice, but I wouldn't consider it a vacation. It takes a bunch of time to rid yourself of the things you're living with every week, and adopt a new mindset.
Mind the gap
If you're heading out of town for your vacation, I strongly recommend building in at least a day or so of buffer time in if you can swing it. For me, this usually means coming back on a Friday or Saturday so I'm not going straight back into work.
Rarely do vacations actually mean that you're relaxing the whole time. You're probably up and moving quite a bit, plus even just traveling in the car or plane can be exhausting. It's nice to have a day or so at home to recoup before jumping back into work life.
Don't take your vacation just to relax so you can go back and work harder than before. This is all about restoring some balance to your life. Having a vacation where you're only one foot out the door won't bring the balance you need. Fully disconnecting is hard, but it's necessary. Your job won't build the boundaries you need to keep you sane, that's your responsibility.
Take that vacation time!