I Didn’t Take That Vacation: Here’s What Happened


I didn’t have the opportunity to take a vacation this year.

For some reason, the stars never aligned to help that happen. A few things contributed to the situation. I have a new role (along with my other commitments), and we are also renovating an older home. As you might expect, our resources have been diverted to goals such as staircases and a functional HVAC system. Then, in a last ditch effort,  we just couldn’t agree on when and where to go.

“Re-charging” just was not in the cards.

The outcome of my neglect feels quite real. A little like pulling an all-nighter — with absolutely no desire to sit for the exam.

This is not a “good thing” — as Martha would say.

The research has shown that many of us fail to take time off, even when we have earned the vacation days to do so. For some odd reason, we don’t like to admit that time off is necessary — or we fear we’ll look weak — or uncommitted to our work. This lack of attention to rest is costly in so many ways. I can only say, that if I’m representative of what it is like to not have a break, no one should skimp.

Sustaining “us” — is in part our own responsibility. We shouldn’t need to be reminded that we are important.

Here’s what has happened:

  • I’m observing signs of burn-out. Yes, I lack my usual level of enthusiasm for the tasks I normally love. I’ve coached myself to care, as the “Joy Factor” has taken a dip. That’s a sad commentary.
  • I’m losing my sense of humor, especially where work is concerned. I don’t laugh nearly enough — and laughing is vastly under-rated. We need these moments to off-set stress.
  • I’m a bit of a pain in the a##. I’m sure it has to do with the above. No further explanation needed. Sorry for the language.
  • Inspiration is waning. I require new sources of stimulation to stay at the top of my game. A change of scenery always does great things for me. We really shouldn’t expect to be at our best, after completing a year-long mental marathon.
  • I’m starting to fantasize about a new line of work. Now, this is simply ridiculous. However, I can easily see why many of us take these feelings as a sign that our roles are the problem. It’s not.

Here is what I’m doing:

  • I’m exploring my local environment. I’m unchaining myself from my desk and getting out there (cell phone muted). I’m stopping by the Farmer’s Market, and checking out the museums and gardens. Inspiration is really all around us.
  • I’m aiming to meet more people face-to-face.  I’m completely inspired by the career journeys of others. I’m making a point to visit college campuses this fall, to talk to students about their future work lives. (let me know if you’d like me to visit yours.)
  • I’m taking a series of shorter weekend trips. Nothing works like the real deal. Michigan is beautiful in the fall and I’m determined to see it.
  • I’m telling founders, managers and leaders to take their vacations (and to let everyone know). Nothing cements a needed change more completely, than a strong message that time off is a respected practice.

What are your strategies to take a break when vacations are impossible to schedule? Share your thoughts.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist, consultant and coach. She holds the role of Senior Consultant at Allied Talent, bringing the principles of The Alliance to organizations worldwide.

5 thoughts on “I Didn’t Take That Vacation: Here’s What Happened

  1. Life flies by so this is good advice. I have made all those mistakes and all I can say is if I was in a very high profile position I would shut off and do something I love, even if only one afternoon a week. Also I would grab many short holidays in the form of long weekends. The side benefit is that staff can have short stints and turns in handling responsibility – (great for succession planning). Many people I have worked with have suffered with real health problems as a result of such an unbalanced life. Maybe one can look at this exercise as changing a habit or forming another discipline in life!


  2. Over the years I have learned to prioritize my vacations instead of getting paid out for them. I take every day of vacation I get and this year I took extra time. Those chances to get away and recharge are more and more important as I get older and my responsibility level increases.

    For the times I can’t get away I take little breaks. I decided to take up a hobby that I can immerse myself in for a few hours here and there that allows me to disconnect from work and everything else and focus on my creativity. I started woodcarving roughly three years ago and love it! I can express my creativity through my projects, something that is very much lacking in my job as a controls engineer. I set up a workbench in my garage with an old TV and VCR. I go to the local Salvation Army store and get VHS movies 2/$1. I watch my movies, carve, and occasionally enjoy a cigar as well. I wouldn’t trade my hobby time for all the money in the world now.

    For vacations we plan a long time in advance. We block the time out at work at least 6 months in advance so everyone knows about (and approves) it long before the time comes. We went to the Virgin Islands last year and loved it so much we are going back again this year. Just looking forward to something for that long makes the daily life easier to deal with.

    I wasn’t always this way though. When I met my wife I was taking the payout for vacation time and working 52 weeks a year. I would work holidays, weekends and any other time I was asked. All that dedication paid off in…nothing. I lost that job and with it all the “sweat equity” that went with it. My wife convinced me that the vacations were essential so I tasked her with planning them. She insists we go somewhere and then together we decide where, how and when. All of the vacations I remember fondly; the years of work leading up to them – not so much.

    Take your vacations, you have earned them and deserve them.


  3. Thank you for sharing. As someone who is inside all day it’s a treat to sit on my porch and watch the birds on the weekend.


  4. Highly recommend a condo at the Homestead in Glen Arbor. Preferably, one up on the bluff (Hawk’s Nest) where you can look out over the Manitou Islands. Very peaceful. 🙂


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