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Marek Struszczyk

Co-Founder ManagerUp


Taking adequate time to rest is the best preventative measure against burnout and over-exhaustion at work. Two of the most unrelenting conditions that can take months to recover from. Vacations are the perfect solution for recharging and managing your stress. Although, it can be difficult to know the best time to take a vacation – not to mention how to ensure you achieve adequate rest while on vacation.

Exactly how much rest is an “adequate” amount, you might ask? Well, science is pretty clear on the amount: it’s 42% a day. Essentially, your body and brain need to spend about 10 hours out of every 24 resting.

While this might seem difficult to achieve, remember it doesn’t have to be every day. It can be averaged out over a week or a month or more if necessary.

In fact, taking at least 8 consecutive days of vacation sporadically throughout the year is the magic number for countering an overworked brain.

That’s why regular vacations are so important. It’s easy to get lost in the everyday grind and lose sight of your work-life balance. But regular, rejuvenating breaks throughout the year can balance out and even reduce the impact of overworking on both your body and brain.

The ideal length of a vacation

When it comes to the ideal vacation length there are generally two schools of thought: some believe it’s better to take frequent or semi-frequent short vacations (one or two days) and spread them throughout the year, while others prefer to “clump” vacation days together and take a longer vacation. Ideally, a balance between the two would be perfect.

However, if you’re forced to choose between the two, the latter is the most rejuvenating for your body and mind.

A group of Finnish researchers calculated the perfect timeframe, finding the most effective way to maintain a healthy work-life balance is to take between seven to 11 days of vacation at a time.

And as it turns out, the ‘sweet spot’ for optimized vacations is eight days. After 8 days of vacation, people reach peak happiness, giving them adequate time to unwind and relax.

Unfortunately, vacation days are not unlimited. But if you plan your vacation around a weekend, you can use less annual leave for your vacation.

Remember to space out your vacation days so you can find balance regularly throughout the year. But ensure you organize your breaks in a way that ensures you’re taking at least 7-8 vacation days at a time to allow you to let go of some of that built-up stress and really relax.

When is the best time to take a vacation?

Of course, the most challenging part of vacations is actually taking them – and taking them in an effective way.

Let’s start with when. Ask yourself: when do you think free time will be most valuable to you? Think about the times throughout the year when you enjoy taking time off. For example, do you enjoy visiting family? Or maybe it is better when you are most exhausted and would benefit more from having time to slow down.

Perhaps Thanksgiving is the most important celebration for you? Or maybe taking a few weeks in April is necessary for you to have an extremely productive summer. Start at the base – what are your personal needs? What times throughout the year do you need an energy boost the most?

Think about what you really need. If traveling stresses you out, why not stay at home? Think about your priorities. Sometimes, you can get more quality time staying at home. Trust me, many executives still do not realize the value of a relaxing, peaceful staycation.

To maximize vacation days there are a few tried and true techniques that allow you to get closer to that magic number without actually needing 8 annual leave days

Here are some of my top tips on how to maximize your vacation, including some great planning techniques that will enable you to truly relax while on vacation.

1. Make the most of your bank holidays

By taking advantage of bank holidays you can maximize the number of vacation days you can take at once.

For example, in 2022, by taking five days off from May 23rd to 27th, you can actually enjoy 10 vacation days. Your actual vacation would be from the 21st to the 30th. Alternatively, you could take July 1st off to get a longer 4th of July weekend.

If you have more days to spare, you can also expand your December and January vacation by taking nine days off from the 7th to the 21st of January. In total, that would give you 17 days of rest, starting on the 7th and ending on the 24th.

With 9 bank holidays remaining in 2022, there are plenty of options to maximize your vacation by combining your holidays with annual leave.

Here are the bank holidays for the rest of the year, as well as the next five years to help you start planning:

Holiday

2022

2023

2024

2025

2026

New Year’s Day

January 1*

January 1**

January 1

January 1

January 1

Martin Luther King Jr. Day

January 17

January 16

January 15

January 20

January 19

Washington’s Birthday (Presidents Day)

February 21

February 20

February 19

February 17

February 16

Memorial Day

May 30

May 29

May 27

May 26

May 25

Juneteenth National Independence Day

June 19**

June 19

June 19

June 19

June 19

Independence Day

July 4

July 4

July 4

July 4

July 4*

Labor Day

September 5

September 4

September 2

September 1

September 7

Columbus Day

October 10

October 9

October 14

October 13

October 12

Veterans Day

November 11

November 11*

November 11

November 11

November 11

Thanksgiving Day

November 24

November 23

November 28

November 27

November 26

Christmas Day

December 25**

December 25

December 25

December 25

December 25

*Falls on a Saturday, not observed
**Falls on a Sunday, observed on Monday

Be aware that these are often tricks that many employees and executives use to increase their vacation days. So, if you want to extend your bank holidays by taking leave, make sure to plan in advance. This way, you won’t have to be the person who is still in the office because you forgot to request leave early enough!

2. Take advantage of the off-season

Depending on the industry you are involved in, you may have an off-season. If you are in the business world, one option is to rest when other businesspeople are also on vacation. For example, the holiday season in December is typically a good time to take a vacation. It all depends on when is the busiest time of the year in your industry. It might feel easier to take time off without the worry that you’re leaving a pile of work behind.

3. Delegation before vacation

Contrary to taking advantage of the off-season, the best time to take a vacation might be when other team members are not.

Before you start planning your vacation, consider the times when others in a similar position will be present. Can your work be reassigned to someone else who can do it just as well as you can?

Even a great executive can’t be present all the time. This is why skilled business leaders train and delegate competent subordinates.

Give your staff plenty of time to learn the ropes before your holiday. By building experience beforehand, your extended absence will induce far less anxiety for you and your team.

This principle should also be applied between other employees. Encourage cross-training between peers to compensate for eventual absences. In doing so, neither you nor your employees will be caught off guard if someone else needs to take a holiday, gets sick, or quits.

After all, the best time to take a vacation from work is when the office is prepared in advance. 

4. Are you in-between jobs?

Lastly, another option is to take time off when you are in-between jobs. So, if you are in the midst of a career change, taking the time to slow down and recharge before the new job begins is always a good idea. Not only do you start with a fresh mind, but you can enjoy a few weeks to yourself to get ready for an exciting new opportunity.

Vacationing often is better than nothing

If you are not able to take long vacations, don’t worry. Taking regular smaller vacations is also immensely beneficial for your brain. So, a long weekend here or there can help as well.

Research shows that taking regular vacations, especially if you travel to a different environment, provides substantial brain benefits. Although, these benefits dissipate quickly and ideally should be replenished often.

So when is the best time to take a vacation?

A major part of having the right work-life balance is making the most of your vacation time. It’s important to take enough time to truly relax and refuel before you jump back into work.

I recommend at least 8 days at a time. Consider including two weekends so you can get more days for less leave. If you take a holiday from Saturday to Sunday, you get 9 days of vacation for 5 days of annual leave. If you get 10 annual leave days a year, that’s two decent rejuvenating holidays per year.

By effectively planning and taking advantage of the best time to take a vacation, you’re less likely to experience burnout down the line.


Also published on Medium.

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