I’m taking a vacation this week and it’s long overdue. I love travel itself and I also love the planning and anticipation of travel. I’ve really missed having a trip to look forward to. While my dreams of far-flung destinations have been put on hold (looking at you, Delta) I’m still excited to be breaking out of the home office for a change of scene and routine. 

One of the side-effects of the pandemic has been the merging of home and work life, resulting in longer hours and fewer breaks. A study by Stanford University found that longer hours actually harmed productivity so we’re not on a path to more and better work by never logging off. So, and especially if you’re a leader under pressure, I urge you to do the counter-intuitive thing and take a proper break. To rest is to invest – in yourself, your future, your upcoming work and the people you lead. 

Scientific American magazine reported that: “Downtime replenishes the brain’s stores of attention and motivation, encourages productivity and creativity, and is essential to achieve our highest levels of performance.” If you don’t take a break, you won’t be able to come back stronger, with replenished resilience for the challenges ahead. 

When we lead from fatigue we are more likely to make mistakes. We lose focus and our perspective shrinks. We are also setting a poor example for those around us. So, if you can, take that vacation (more than half of workers do not use all their paid time off). If you can’t take a trip, embrace the staycation – plan in rest time and stick to it. If you really struggle with switching off try ‘active relaxation’ with some low effort activities that you enjoy. 

How to vacation …

Set yourself up for a successful vacation by talking to your team before you go – clearly communicate your expectations and how they should escalate situations in your absence. Set an out-of-office message and don’t read emails during your break. When the vacation ends it is important to ease back into things. Allow yourself some transition time when you might think about work, jot down some priorities or allow yourself to procrastinate a little. Don’t fill your first day back full of meetings. Catch up with your team and customers. Reflect on your time away. 

Burnout isn’t fixed by vacation but if time away enables you to reconnect with your purpose you’re a step closer to getting back to peak performance. 

Invest in yourself so you can invest in your team.