Take a vacation from your vocation, because it works

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Have you ever had one of those days when all you could think was, “Gosh, do I need a vacation.”

Of course you have, because all work and no play aren’t good for anyone. A vacation doesn’t have to be two weeks on a tropical island, or even a long weekend at the beach.

A vacation just means taking a break from everyday activities. A change of pace. It doesn’t matter where.

Everyone needs a vacation to rejuvenate mentally and physically. But you can help boost our economy by taking some days off. Call it your personal stimulus package.

An analysis by Oxford Economics for the U.S. Travel Association found that more than 40 percent of U.S. workers don’t take their full allotment of paid time off (PTO) during the year, representing an average of 3.2 unused vacation days per worker in 2013 — a total of 429 million workdays!

Aside from the risk of exhaustion and career burnout, unused vacation days have a negative impact on the U.S. economy. The study estimated if employees took full advantage of their PTO days, the economy would enjoy the benefits of more than $160 billion in sales and $21 billion in tax revenues, as well as supporting 21 million jobs in areas like retail, transportation and manufacturing. Workers taking just a single additional day off would boost spending by $73 billion.

So go ahead and take some vacation. It’s your patriotic duty.

And please, don’t try the old excuse that you can’t take time off. No one is indispensable. No one. The place may not function as smoothly without you, but the doors won’t close, and you won’t lose all your customers.

My friend, the late Zig Ziglar, had an interesting take on productivity and vacations: “Isn’t it amazing how much stuff we get done the day before vacation?“ There’s the motivation: getting lots of work done in anticipation of being out of the office.

Summer is traditionally a great time. Have you planned some time off yet? You can detach from the workplace without worry, and enjoy the break you deserve, if you follow these simple steps beforehand:

• Notify co-workers and clients. Let bosses, customers and colleagues know at least a week, if not sooner, before taking off. Let people know how long you’ll be out, when you’ll return and whom they should contact. Set an email auto-reply, and leave the same information on your voice mail.

• Prepare your co-workers. Talk to people who will handle questions or problems while you’re away. Help them by providing pertinent information like the status of current projects, names of possible callers and reasons they might call.

• Straighten up. There’s nothing as unmotivating as coming back from a great vacation to a workspace in disarray. Clean up before you leave.

• Get your mind in gear. If you’re not accustomed to taking time off, you may have forgotten how to disconnect. It typically takes two to three days to get into vacation mode. A friend downloads a photo of his destination for his screensaver a couple weeks before vacation. It reminds him to enjoy hard work’s rewards.

• Turn off your electronics, and explain you’ll be available no more than 15 minutes a day unless the place is on fire. Our smartphone world has created an army of work zombies. The temptation to work is too great when you can just tap your phone. Don’t let technology ruin your break … or your life.

• Trust the people you work with to carry on. You might be pleasantly surprised at what they accomplish in your absence.

And if getting away is absolutely impossible, try what the Business School of Happiness calls “The One Minute Vacation.”  When time and money prevent taking a physical vacation, “The same relaxing benefits of taking a vacation can be found in minutes of simple meditation interspersed throughout the day.

In fact, three one-minute sessions of deep breathing at pre-set intervals throughout the day may deliver the deep sense of peacefulness that might have seemed elusive.”

Mackay’s moral: Vacations aren’t luxuries, they’re necessities.

Harvey Mackay is the author of the New York Times best-seller, “Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive.” To comment, visit harveymackay.com.