Your Vacation Permission Slip

The right vacation can perk up your whole year. So what’s keeping you behind that desk?

Many people cite a host of reasons why they can’t tear themselves away. But let’s face it: Those excuses don’t justify losing perfectly good time off. So we asked work-and-sanity experts to diagnose the issues that may be keeping you home. Here are their solutions.

Excuse:

 I wouldn’t know what to do with myself. I get bored when my in-box isn’t overflowing.
Step off the fast track, and you might worry that you’re nobody—and find out that you’re clueless about how to spend your time. “Knowing how to experience leisure is not something that comes naturally,” says Ilene Philipson, PhD, a clinical psychologist in Oakland, California, and author of Married to the Job: Why We Live To Work and What We Can Do About It(Free Press).

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Rx:

  • Wean yourself gently. Start slowly—2 hours a week at a park or museum, just to get used to being away from your desk. As you discover nonwork pleasures, give them increasing amounts of your time.
  • Cultivate hobbies that demand intense focus. Fast-trackers have a tendency to be obsessive, so channel your drive into golf, triathlons, or gourmet cooking. Then tour the links of Scotland, train for a big race, or take a chef’s tour through France.
  • Look for active yet restful vacations. Multitaskers get antsy doing nothing, but their lives are exhausting. Your vacation should keep you busy and un-wind you. Philipson recommends a spa or full-service resort, where you can fill your BlackBerry with massage appointments and Pilates classes.

Excuse: I keep this place going. It’s chaos without me.
It’s great to love your job and take pride in your accomplishments. But sometimes superachievers pour their hearts and souls into work because their outside lives are lacking—in friendships, fun, or intimate relationships. Vacations simply underscore what’s missing.

Rx:

  • Leave the office at a reasonable hour at least once a week.Join a book club, an after-work basketball team, or any other regularly scheduled group activity that will provide you with an instant social circle. Superachievers keep appointments and commitments; if your calendar shows a 7 p.m. hoops practice, you will finish your work and get out the door.
  • Look for a getaway that feeds your new interest. The travel industry caters to every hobby—there are weeklong summer art courses on bucolic college campuses on one hand and intensive yoga retreats on the other. Stay busy and connect with others; solitude and spare time may leave you stewing about what you’re missing at the office.
  • Identify an acquaintance who seems to strike a successful work-life mix. Invite her to dinner and talk about how she does it; try to get together every few months. You can benefit from getting support and guidance about maintaining balance. And besides, you need to derive some of your identity and sense of recognition outside of the office, and this is a good first step.

Excuse: My boss disapproves if workers take all of their vacation time.
You can’t change the corporate culture. But you don’t have to give up your vacation, or slink away in shame.

Rx:

  • Schedule vacation well in advance. A month before you leave, sit with your supervisor and write a plan that will tie up as many loose ends as possible. Then meet for a weekly status check.
  • Establish a vacation buddy. Pick someone in your department who is competent to stand in for you and happy to help so you’ll return the favor.
  • Try to take all of your vacation at once. That way, you’ll have to plan just one time a year—and you’ll be away long enough to get some perspective on your job.
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