08/06/2014 06:08 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Why Taking Time Off Is Valuable for Your Career

When you are really busy in your life and career, it might feel like a utopian thought to take a few days off. Not to mention a few weeks. Days or weeks where you can whisk away on a much-needed vacation, preferably far away from everyday chores.

Many of the young executives we meet (and some of the more experienced ones, too), express concerns about being away from work. They are afraid that work will pile up, that wrong decisions are taken and that they will miss out in general. It is easy to admire such hear-warming concern for their job, but to take time off and recharge your batteries are important for many things. Actually there are several effects that should be applauded rather than avoided.


  • You will find better solutions to challenges ahead. Your body needs to rest. So does you head. In creative work there are well-known techniques that exploit the advantage of incubation. Incubation is when you give your brain time to perform unconscious recombination of thought elements, which may result in new solutions. Psychologist Dr. Jeremy Dean, the author of "Making Habits, Breaking Habits: How to Make Changes That Stick" writes in his blog PsyBlog "This is a fascinating capability of the mind. It's wonderful that it can solve problems unconsciously while we're getting on with day-to-day life."
  • You get new perspectives by looking at the bigger picture. It is easy getting narrow-sighted when things are piling up. The good old phrase "Unable to see the forest for all the threes" is applicable here. An important leadership feature is to be able to see the whole picture, look ahead and even around corners. This is easier when you get some distance to it all.
  • It is easier for you to engage your team. Being a leader requires a lot. Being a good leader requires even more. Including a lot of energy. The more energy you have (as long as you know where to direct it) the easier it is to engage people around you. Resulting that you move forward -- together.

But there's one thing you should never do when you head off to your well-earned days off: Do NOT tell your employees that when you are back you will launch a new strategy, map of the organization or relocate (or any other plan that implies major changes). First of all, even with the best intentions on your behalf you will probably leave your team in a mental chaos -- not knowing what will happen when you are back. What you clearly see inside your head is hardly visible for anyone else. Your team will be left with speculations and assumptions, which drains energy and prevent forward movement. Second, in today's working environment, where involvement is king, engagement is alpha and omega and change is the new currency -- the hidden message you send by doing this is for sure not that you are a dynamic, modern and involving leader for the future. The strategy you develop during your hours in the sun might be splendid, but we promise you that the execution of it will be by far superior if you actually take real-time off when you are away and rather work on the strategy when back at the office collaborating with your team.

In other words, plan your vacation with a light heart. And if you just came back and started working again, praise yourself for taking time off. Both you and your career need it.

Let us know if you have any thoughts or reflections on this topic. Remember that we write this blog in order to inspire leaders to gain a more conscious reflection on their role now and in the future, but -- real life is out there, where you are. Thus your thoughts and insights are just as valuable as ours.

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