While vacation may conjure up thoughts of relaxing in some sun-drenched oasis for a week or two, seldom do any of us actually unplug on our days off. It's likely that you set down your beach towel, lather up with sunscreen, lay down, and close your eyes open up your email.
The reality is that planning and taking a vacation is time-consuming, and many even consider it stressful. Getting work done in advance of your vacation, delegating tasks while you're away, and redirecting queries and workplace concerns while you're out of the office only adds to the stress of finding affordable accommodation, as well as figuring out transportation costs and how to navigate a new place.
That's why all too many people don't take a vacation at all, and they end the year with unused days off.
But, according to research from Harvard Business Review, taking microvacations might actually be the best way to make the most of a day off without all the stresses of a typical week- or two-week vacation. A microvacation, which is just a day or so off (even just a few hours), doesn't require you to do nearly as much planning.
Instead of limiting vacations to week-long adventures, consider a two- to three-day trip to someplace local, recommends Elizabeth Grace Saunders of Harvard Business Review. Especially if you live in an urban area, traveling even a few hours can make you feel like you're in a different world.
Saunders recommends taking time off on a Friday so you can wrap up packing, get to your destination, and unwind before calling it a night. That then leaves you two full days of exploring, and all you had to do was take off a few hours on Friday afternoon. You can still get home on Sunday evening and unpack before your workweek starts up again.
There may be a few more emails than normal to process on Monday but, other than that, your microvacation shouldn't create any big work pileups, Saunders says.
Beyond traveling, taking a few hours or a day off can also allow you to knock off a to-do list of personal items (getting your oil checked, changing your tires, making it to the dentist, furniture shopping, etc.). If you know you have responsibilities you need to take care of but can hardly find the time to do it after work (and want to enjoy your weekends), use a vacation day to try to schedule and check off everything at once. It'll feel like a massively productive day and take the weight off your shoulders, all while only using one day of vacation. This means that you don't need to do much planning or delegating at work before you take off.
You can also take a few hours off to catch up with friends and family over lunch, if you feel as though you don't have enough time to spend with them. Maybe you rearrange your calendar for the day, so you don't have any meetings over lunchtime, but you're really not missing anything.
Instead of seeing 'vacation' as a large event once or twice a year, consider integrating microvacations into your life on a regular basis, Saunders advises. By giving yourself permission to take time for yourself, you can increase your sense of ease with your time.
So what will you do with your day off?