Five Reasons to Use All of Your Vacation Time

Mark Sagor

vacationI can’t imagine that anyone would ever feel inspired to write an article about the “Top Five Reasons for Taking 100% of Your Pay.”

Nobody requires encouragement to accept their entire compensation.

So why do 41% of Americans not use all of their available vacation time? Why are people not using an average of 9.2 days per year of their well-earned vacation time?

Apparently, one of the main reasons is that people leave vacation time on the table is that they are worried about the stack of work that will be waiting for them when they return. In other (illogical) words, “I am too stressed to take time off now because I am afraid I will become even more stressed later on.”

Others say that their reluctance to take the opportunity to get away from their stressful jobs is that they believe that no one else can do their job or they say the exact opposite: they are afraid the boss will find out just how replaceable they really are!

Or, incredibly, they say both.

People, particularly those of you who say “all of the above”, you need to stop listening to the fearful thoughts of an overworked mind and take your vacation!

Do not follow the misguided advice of your anxiety (which builds up even faster when you are leisure-deprived) and start paying attention to the voluminous and indisputable body of scientific research which says vacation is very good for you.

Here are the top five benefits:

  1. Vacations reduce your risk of having a heart attack. In one well controlled study researchers examined data from the Framingham Heart Study and discovered that women who took a vacation once every six years or less were almost eight times more likely to have a heart attack than women who took at least two vacations per year. Another study looking at 12,000 men at high risk for coronary heart disease found that those who failed to take annual vacations were 32% more likely to die of a heart attack.


  1. Vacations make you more productive. One of the world’s largest accounting firms found that “for each additional 10 hours of vacation employees took, their year-end performance ratings…..improved by eight percent.” This is but one of thousands of data points which confirm that well-rested people outperform tired people.


  1. Vacations create memories that enhance bonding with your travel partners. The seeds of some of the most enduring memories are often planted when things do not go according to plan (as in lost luggage and flat tires). Remember to leave some room for the serendipitous and for downtime and appreciate, rather than fight against, the unexpected moments that inevitably happen when we move outside of familiar routines and surroundings.


  1. Vacations lead to improved mental health and less depression. Studies at the Marshfield Clinic in Wisconsin and the university of Pittsburgh’s Mind Body Center found that people who vacation more are less likely to suffer from depression and increased stress and had higher levels of positive emotions.


  1. Vacations help you get in touch with a more personal identity which can become obscured by a work role. Vacations are more than simply an opportunity to take a break from work so that we can go back and do more work with increased energy and strength. Vacations remind us that we are much more than the sum of our responsibilities. Work can be a great source of pride and self-esteem and if you are really lucky work can also fulfill a sense of purpose and meaning. But even the most fulfilling work role is just one part of a greater identity, the one we rediscover when we periodically set aside our responsibilities and allow ourselves to be guided by more personal rhythms and preferences.

As Martin Lloyd-Jones, a Welsh Presbyterian minister and medical doctor who lived in the mid twentieth century put it:

“Whole cemeteries could be filled with the sad tombstone: ‘Born a man, died a doctor.”

Embrace your vacation this year, all of it, and honor the importance of leisure to your health, productivity and sense of self.