Current Issue
This Month's Print Issue

Follow Fast Company

We’ll come to you.

2 minute read

Use It or Lose It

Today I am on vacation.  Not "working from home" or "away from the office" - and then still checking my voicemail and BlackBerry.  No, I am truly  And it isn't easy.

When is the last time you did this? Were you able to truly unplug and be 100% in the day, away?

Vacation Time

Most organizations offer some sort of vacation benefit for employees.  These same organizations typically enforce rules as to how much vacation an employee may accrue and roll to the next year.  When an employee has too much vacation accrued, they lose some of the vacation days.  This falls into the "use it or lose it" approach.  

No Time To Rest

Do you know anyone at work who is just too busy to take time away...truly away...and be on vacation?  Is that person....YOU???  At work we have what we call the "beer truck theory" - as in, what would we do if (insert employee name) was hit by a beer truck?  Sounds a bit morbid, but in reality, none of us is so critical to the mission of our organizations that the place would fail without us.  Might feel like that when you're in the middle of a tough work day, but in reality, most places existed before we worked there, and will be there when we leave.  You need to ask yourself, "does my work define who I am, or is it who I am?"

Why We Get Vacation

Early in my career, I worked in investment operations.  We only received a few weeks vacation each year and were required to take a full five days (a week) consecutively.  Why?  For audit purposes.  It was apparently a bit harder to fool the Feds if we were away for more than a day at a time.  It was also a brutal business in the mid-1980s - the rest and regeneration were necessary to survive.  Of course, no email or BlackBerry Smartphone (ooo...Smartphone) to deal with either.  It was near impossible to 'take work home'.

Whether you answered "my work defines me, or my work IS me" to the question above, you owe it to your work, your colleagues, your customers, your self, to be the best 'you' at work you can be.  This means a great attitude, an "A-game" approach giving and expecting excellence and a service-over-self modus operandi.  Whew, that was a lot just typing it all.  Recharge and re-energize yourself to make this happen.  Vacation time is the way.

Why You Need to Take Your Vacation Time

"Use it or lose it" isn't just for vacation time. Your being sick, stressed or not being able to give 100% doesn't serve anyone.  Your family, your life, your dog, your neighbors, your couch, your bike, your golf clubs - somewhere you are missed.  Don't lose it.

Do you really think you will retire some day and think, "Gee, I wish I would have worked more and not take my vacation time?"

The first three hours of the day today were tough.  No, I have not checked email, voicemail or BlackBerry.  Though I did feel a few phantom "read me" vibrations on my hip a few minutes ago...