Don’t read this! It’s summer. Your brain would prefer it if you just stop reading. This is why you need to unplug instead. Consider this: Your mental health is as important as your personal bottom line. Let’s face it. Without a clear brain and good mental health, how important is it really if you have a fat bottom line?
But you’re reading this, aren’t you? Well, thanks, but here are some reasons why you should take more time to shut off, unplug, and get outside. Because your brain needs a break — more often than you think it does. And summer is the perfect time to do it.
What happens after forced time off
In a study done by the Harvard Business School1, consultants at the Boston Consulting Group were forced to take regular time off, even when they didn’t want to. They either had to take a break during a weekday, or take one night off for personal time (even though they were used to working from home in the evenings).
As the study states, “Everyone resisted at first, fearing they would only be postponing work. But over time the consultants learned to love their scheduled time off because it consistently replenished their willingness and ability to work, which made them more productive overall. After five months, employees experimenting with deliberate periodic rest were more satisfied with their jobs, more likely to envision a long-term future at the company, more content with their work–life balance, and prouder of their accomplishments.”2
On a side note, the same can also be said for forcing yourself to schedule personal time for exercise. When I would regularly schedule to meet my bike club for Tuesday and Saturday rides, I felt better all day and got more done. (Now, if only I can figure out how to do that and still handle the chaos and schedules of three young school-age kids.)
Can you really unplug?
But in the name of summer, let’s not stop there. Because as we know, it’s also hard for people to stop work and go on vacation. In fact, up to 57 per cent of us have unused vacation days left over at the end of the year.3 And as a nation we also have some of the lowest amounts of paid personal time off. You know what they say about all work and no play? Exactly.
And even if we go on vacation, do we truly unplug? One report found that, “Even among those who actually do go on vacation, three in five admitted to doing some work. A quarter were contacted by a coworker while they were on vacation, and 20 percent were contacted by their supervisor about a work-related issue.”4
And that doesn’t even count all the devices that we have that we’re constantly checking. So even if you’re on vacation, are you really there?
Why do we need to take full advantage of our vacations? Here’s a little mad science for you:
Better for the old ticker
One study shows that “men at risk for heart disease who skipped vacations for five consecutive years were 30 percent more likely to suffer heart attacks than those who took at least a week off each year. Even missing one year’s vacation was associated with a higher risk of heart disease.”5
If that’s not enough to motivate you, consider this: Lowering your risk of heart disease will also help lower your health and life insurance premiums. So if not for your health, then do it for your wallet.
You work better overall
The professional services firm Ernst & Young did a study of its own employees and found that, “for each additional 10 hours of vacation time employees took, their year-end performance ratings improved 8 percent. What’s more, frequent vacationers were significantly less likely to leave the firm.”6
It’s a chill pill that lasts
A study from the University of Vienna found that, “after taking time off from work, vacationers had fewer stress-related physical complaints such as headaches, backaches, and heart irregularities, and they still felt better five weeks later.”7
What good is a full bank account if you don’t have the time or the mental health to enjoy it?
Now that you’ve read all of this, please do the following:
- Turn off your phone, computer, TV, or fax machine (kidding, who still has a fax machine anyway?).
- Go outside.
- Plan one day or night next week that can be personal time. No work — just free time to do whatever you like.
- Then start planning a big old vacation.
And delegate. Start working with a qualified financial planner who can help you keep you sort out your financial life and stay on track. You’ll have more personal time for doing fun things and not have to worry about rebalancing your portfolio or planning for paying for college.