I think the Europeans have it right…

photo by rhettmaxwell 

European countries tend to have at least 6 weeks of vacation per year.

Actually the more important point – not only do they have that much vacation time, but they actually take the time off and use it!!!

By contrast, the US is averaging about 16.6 days of vacation (according to a study in 2004) with at least a 1/3 of the people surveyed not planning to use all of that.  My guess is that for a lot of small business owners, the reality is even more restrictive than for employees.

According to a different study in 2005, Americans are working 389 hours a year more than their European counterparts, but overall the US is less productive even with 10% – 15% more time on the clock.  (I assume that also takes into account siestas, croissant breaks and late, late dinners – which would make it even worse…!). 

I’m going out on a limb here, but I would have to guess that all work and no play tends to make you unproductive and more likely to go postal.

What can you do?

There are a ton of reasons why people don’t take vacations – and with gas prices out of control and everyone in the media constantly declaring the economy a disaster, it’s actually pretty easy to choose to stay in the office and keep working (fear is a wonderful motivator).

However that doesn’t mean you can’t take a few days off, even if you can only afford to hang around the house.  But if you’re going to make it worthwhile, then you actually have to unplug and really clear your head. 

Don’t stress about the backlog of stuff in your inbox – you will always imagine things to be worse than they really are.  You can catch-up more quickly than you think you can.

Don’t worry about losing clients and opportunities – if they’re a good fit for you and you’ve let them know what’s going on, they’ll still be there when you get back.

Here’s the plan – pick a week coming up soon and plan for at least 4 days off in a row (a whole week would be better).  If you can afford to get away, get away somewhere that will really let you not think about work.  If you can’t afford to get away, shut down all the access to your work stuff, rent some movies, find a project at home you can enjoy, host a party, go to the lake or the zoo or the ballgame and just stop thinking about working.

I guarantee that when you get back you will have a different perspective and be in much better shape to take on the world.

My plan?  I’m taking my kids to Disney before they get to be too old to really enjoy it or appreciate it (I figure we’re within a couple of years of that already).  We’re not renting a car and we’re staying at a Disney resort.  I’m pretty sure that I’ll be too worn out from trying to keep up with them to have any time to think about work.

Share your vacation ideas here – especially if that will help make you commit to something!  We don’t want to let the Europeans keep winning this battle!  😉

Shawn Kinkade  www.aspirekc.com