Protect Your Time Off Like A Mama Bear
Updated: Dec 6, 2021
I just returned from a sensational holiday in South America. We took the kids down to Argentina and Uruguay for almost three weeks. The weather was perfect- sunny but not unbearably hot. We saw friends, had adventures, ate steaks, and enjoyed being together.
I didn't want to come home.
Of course, I'm not supposed to say that, at least according to the myths constantly pushed at us about living our best lives. You see it in Instagram posts, motivational slogans plastered on the walls of co-working spaces, and in ads for financial services. I wonder if you've also heard it? It goes something like this.
Do you know anyone who has a life they don't need to take a vacation from?
I love my life and my work. But I also love my vacations—a lot.
I understand the idea behind this quote. Your work shouldn't be something you frequently fantasize about escaping. If the only thing you look forward to all year is your three weeks away from work, you have a problem. However, I reject the idea that everyone should love their life and work so much they don't need a vacation.
The benefits of leisure time are significant. Vacations contribute to our well-being, offer novel experiences, enhanced rest, and increased opportunities for play. They deepen our social bonds and relationships, give us chances to savour the good things in life, increasing our positive emotions and happiness.
You don't even need to spend lots of money on a trip to get the benefits of a vacation. A recent article in the Harvard Business Review pointed to the benefits of adopting what the study's author called "a vacation mindset" on the weekend. In the study, they told half the participants to treat their weekend as a vacation, and the other half to go about their weekend as usual. In terms of instructions, that was it. Nevertheless, the results were compelling. On Monday, those who treated their weekend as a vacation (however they defined it) were significantly happier than those who didn't. That shift in mindset was all it took to change their behaviour and their feelings after.
Work-life balance in North America tilts sharply to work. The technical ability to always be "on" tips the balance further. As Katrina Onstad wrote in her fascinating book The Weekend Effect, we need to fiercely protect our downtime. "Technology and a global economy that never sleeps have accelerated what was already grueling. Getting more, and getting it faster and better, takes time. We can be rich in stuff, yet starving for time. Which is why the weekend is more imperative than ever: it's the corner of the week ordained to slow time. Protecting forty-eight hours in a row in this day and age is a superhero move. It takes courage. But if you can put up your hand and slow time, just for two days, you create space for all kinds of experiences that aren't about success and acquisition."
As we begin to dream about our summer holidays (or is it just me?!) and as the week comes to a close, I leave you with this offering.
Love your work and your life outside of it. A fulfilling and purposeful career is a beautiful thing, which is why I have chosen to dedicate mine to help my clients design theirs. But my career is just one part of my life.
May you protect your vacations with the fierceness of a mama bear. May you wring out every drop of pleasure and enjoyment from them. May they help you re-discover parts of yourself you've forgotten, and uncover new versions of yourself to fall in love with.
Have a great weekend!