In a few short weeks, tens of millions of schoolchildren will be asked a familiar question: What did you do on your summer vacation?
Considering that most kids spend the summer riding bikes, going to camp or manning lemonade stands, it might be more revealing to ask parents instead: Did you take some time off this summer? If not, then I have five words of advice for you: Go jump in a lake.
Chances are you need a break. That's especially true now as the recession eases and business starts to heart up. Worried about job security, many workers powered through the recession without any down time. In fact, surveys indicate that just 42 percent of Americans planned a leisure trip in 2009, down from 49 percent in 2005.
Burnout, of course, leads to job dissatisfaction, loss of productivity and even morale problems. This isn't just a problem for individuals, but employers, too
Can it be fixed--or prevented?
It can, but it requires both an understanding of the core problem, and a commitment to fixing it.
Let's start with the former: Like many working professionals, you may have prioritized your professional life at the expense of your personal one. Have you marginalized personal relationships, allowed your health or fitness to suffer, and/or reduced the amount of time you spend relaxing?
Many workers persuade themselves these sacrifices are worth it. They convince themselves that they will be rewarded for their dedication. So they work longer hours, hoping for a promotion, holding out for a large bonus or just some job security. Even when their sacrifices are rewarded, few workers stop to evaluate whether their efforts were worth it.
That's because many of us are slow to realize the toll that these sacrifices take. We don't see the signs that our attitudes may be slipping, or that ours stress level may be rising. But employers do. Left unchecked, these conditions can fester and turn a once capable and productive worker into a malcontent and office misfit.
That's why the question of "what did you do on your summer vacation" is so important. If you did not take time off because "you were too busy," then your priorities may be out of alignment.
Remember: you have two lives to live: one at home, and one at the office. Though they may blend from time to time, they still have separate and distinct needs. Living both fully is the only way to reach long-term happiness and contentment.
If you discover that your professional life is holding your personal life hostage, you need to commit to addressing the problem. Start by scheduling that overdue summer vacation.
Taking time off allows us to regroup and think about our priorities. It also allows us to assess the state of our personal affairs. Vacation is often a time when people ask themselves the following: Am I in the shape I want to be in? Are my finances in order? When was the last time I called my best friend?
I'm not talking about trying to de-emphasize your professional responsibilities in favor of personal fun, but instead pursuing both, for the benefit of each other.
Think about that in the final remaining weeks before Labor Day, while the weather is still warm enough to splash around at the end of a dock.
Inder Sidhu is the Senior Vice President of Strategy & Planning for Worldwide Operations at Cisco, and the author of Doing Both: How Cisco Captures Today's Profits and Drives Tomorrow's Growth. Follow Inder on Twitter at @indersidhu.
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