PRODUCTIVITY

Stop Saying 'Workaholic' Like It's a Good Thing

Extended time off is key for a happy, productive life. So why isn't it more common?
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Let's just make one thing clear--being called a "workaholic" is not a compliment. Taking time off is essential for being a happy, healthy, whole individual. So unless you want to be a miserable, sickly mutated chimera, you should be taking more time off. Stop working so hard. It could be killing you.

Stop Giving Up Vacation Time! Are You Crazy?

It's been increasingly more common for employees to sacrifice their vacation days in exchange for a nod from higher ups. Some believe that surrendering their time off demonstrates their commitment to the company, serving as a testament to their work ethic and, hopefully, resulting in job security.

This self-sustaining cycle of vacation guilt is nonsensical and unhealthy. I promise, you'll benefit more from taking that time off than you will from laboring extra hours under those harsh fluorescent cubicle lights.

"But I'm so busy" you may be thinking, "how can I afford to take time off?" President Obama is taking a 15 day vacation in Martha's Vinyard this August. So unless you are busier than The President of the Unites States (and while I hate to presume, I think that's highly unlikely), you should be able to finagle a few weeks off.

Last August I took the entire month off to travel with my wife. This was a huge deal for me. It was the first time I've taken more than a week off during my 13 years in the workforce.

We did an epic trip, going from: Boston -> Budapest -> Prague -> Osaka -> Tokyo -> Kuala Lumpur -> Bali -> Great Barrier Reef -> French Polynesia -> Home

I'm not telling all this to brag (well, maybe just a bit). I'm sharing this because it was a major revelation for me--that taking large leaves of absence like these are hugely beneficial. Not to mention insanely fun.

Europeans Get 6 Weeks Vacation. Why Don't We?

This strange disdain for vacation time is a uniquely American epidemic. During my month traveling, I met many Europeans who regularly get as much as 6 weeks paid vacation off. Yup, you heard that right. 6 weeks.

These long gaps of time off are as common as cows in other countries, for professionals as well as students. In other parts of the globe, many students to take a gap year after high school to travel. This time helps students to gain a better understanding of themselves and what they want in life. Students who take a gap year enter college more mature, confident, and better prepared for the rigors of higher education.

In the US, this practice is unusual and even interpreted by some as a signal that a student isn't ready to take college seriously. In reality, the opposite is true.

Americans are odd ducks, and where other countries work to live, we live to work. Don't you smirk--that's not something to be proud of. It demonstrates how completely out of alignment our values are. We need to take a hint from the rest of the world and enjoy life a bit more.

Unpaid Leave vs. Paid Vacation

Your boss isn't likely dishing out more than a couple weeks of vacation time. So what do you do when this isn't a big enough break?

The secret lies in unpaid time off. Taking large chunks of unpaid leave provides the necessary break you really need. You may gawk at the thought of your boss tolerating such romantic notions, but you'll never know unless you ask. An extended leave of absence for you might even relieve a strained budget.

Getting Life Perspective and Having a Kickass Time Doing It

If you are in the office all day, every day, you might find it hard to imagine--life with no meetings, no emails. Just 100% your time, doing what you love and having fun. For me, experiencing this for an entire month was truly life-changing.

When you're in the daily grind, it's so easy to get tunnel vision and only see what's directly in front of you--the ROI, churn numbers, unfinished marketing projects. The truth is that a week break just doesn't do it. It takes a week just to begin letting go of those office-place burdens and getting your head clear.

Once you've truly removed yourself from the rat race and its ubiquitous mindset, you'll see things more objectively. You may question the logic of pushing yourself so hard for material wealth, when time dedicated to profits could instead be spent with family and loved ones (which is worth more than any raise or bonus).

Many Americans have their personal identity and value too wrapped up in their careers. Well-adjusted individuals don't completely define themselves by their work life. And, contrary to what you might think, most employers aren't looking for exhausted, over-worked slaves chained to their laptops, sustained only by IVs of caffeine They want healthy, happy, whole people working for them.

Why? Well...

Happier Workers Are More Productive

It's been proven that happier workers are more productive workers. That's why companies like Google jump through hoops to provide an abundance of amenities (free food, kegerators, nap pods, massages, etc.) ensuring that employees work with smiles on their faces.

If happiness = productiveness, your suffering is benefiting absolutely no one, so stop being a martyr!

Traveling is Easier When You Are Younger

Many Americans put off traveling for their golden years, and while it's great to see the world at any age, there's no denying that travel is much easier when you're more able-bodied. Travel experiences can change how one sees the world, and these experiences are more effective when they happen earlier in life.

Traveling broadens horizons, inspires the human spirit, and makes us well-rounded individuals. We need to make time for travel in our lives.

How Cutting the 40 Hour Work Week Could Revolutionize Communities

CEO Larry Page recently suggested that a shorter workweek could create huge benefits for the economy, managing human resources more effectively as robots take over more increasingly more responsibilities (bow to your robot overlords). Page suggests that many people feel the need to work 40 hours a week simply due to social stipulations and the need to keep busy.

Humans have an inherent desire to be needed. While work is one method to fulfill that drive, funneling this energy into other avenues could benefit communities everywhere. That extra workday could be spent volunteering at community centers, gardening in local parks, visiting the elderly, etc. We may find ourselves living in more supportive, healthy communities that have long suffered from our work-centric lifestyle.

So down with the workaholics! It's time to embrace extended time off as a human necessity and make the most of what the wide world has to offer.

IMAGE: Shutterstock
Last updated: Jul 24, 2014

LARRY KIM

Larry Kim is the founder and CTO of WordStream, provider of the 20-Minute PPC Work Week and the free AdWords Grader.




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