Monday Motivation Hack: Use Your PTO

Monday Motivation Hack: Use Your PTO

You think you’re locking in your career by never missing a day.

You’re not alone.

Research shows that more than a quarter of workers fear that taking time off will make them seem less dedicated. Others think that vacation-time martyrdom will boost their chances for a raise or a promotion (it doesn’t).

But, this (very American) cultural phenomenon of rarely taking time off and almost never using all of one’s vacation days is bad news for employers and employees alike. And managers know it.

According to Project: Time Off, managers agree that paid time off (PTO):

  • improves health and well-being (82 percent)
  • relieves burnout (81 percent)
  • increases employees’ focus after return (78 percent)
  • improves employees’ commitment to their jobs (70 percent)

So, if the boss is on board, why did Americans donate 658 million vacation days to their employers in 2015?

More than 66 percent of employees report getting mixed or negative messages about time off and just don’t want to take the risk, deal with the stress, or let the work build up.

However, there are important reasons to make PTO a priority.

Why You Absolutely Must Start Using Your PTO

Recently, we explored the benefits of self-care and treating yo’self for motivation and productivity. Using up your PTO takes these ideas to the next level, and the benefits are just as profound.

  • Vacation can save your life—literally. Research shows that high-risk middle-aged men who took regular vacations were less likely to die of all causes and significantly less likely to die of heart attack during the course of a nine-year study. Vacation has also been shown to have an effect on your body and mind similar to that of meditation.
  • Time off is critical to self-care, creativity, and motivation. Though research shows the halo-effect of vacation is short lived, it is a vital part of recharging your batteries and your willpower.

How to Get the Most from Your PTO

Put a little excitement in this Monday, and do these things today:

  1. Find out how many vacation days you currently have. (Check with HR if you have questions about how or when you need to use PTO.)
  2. Mark out paid holidays on your calendar.
  3. Pick three fun things you could do with the vacation time you have.

When you have an idea of what you’re working with, there are a few best practices that will set you up for success when you do take time off.

Plan ahead.

Planning is highly correlated with increased use of time off. Many people fear the amount of backed-up work they’ll come back to if they take time off. By wrangling your workload effectively, you will be able to build in adequate buffers to your vacation time and remove the stress that can accompany time off.

Here’s a tip: Plan your workflows as if you’re taking 30 to 50 percent more time off. This way, when you come back to your desk, day-to-day tasks are sorted and you can focus on any catch-up—like email.

Plan around slow seasons.

Take advantage of lulls in your industry to minimize backlogged work before and after vacation.

Piggy-back on holidays.

A lot of people take vacation whenever they can squeeze it in. By planning, you are able to optimize not only workflows but also total time off, getting the maximum bang for your days-off buck.

Communicate with your team.

Advanced notice to your team—with regular reminders—works wonders. You can set early deadlines, and your colleagues will often cooperate to make project requests farther in advance so you’re not bottlenecked before or after your time off.

Make vacation planning a reward.

By planning far-ish in advance for PTO, you get to look forward to your coming vacation. It’s fun to see the details come together. Plus, on rough days, it can be highly motivating to have something concrete to look forward to/daydream about.

Now that you know how much time off you have, when some good times to go on vacation are, and how you’re going to plan for that time, let go of the worry that your boss will be angry or that you’ll fall behind, and plan a trip!

How much vacation do you take? How do you prepare for it and what tips would you share?

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