FC12 Skiing 05 - Flickr

If you are like many successful executives and business professionals, you have a strong drive to set and accomplish objectives which is one of the main reasons you are successful. This drive can make it very easy to stay a couple extra minutes to finish something at the office or even steal a few moments to respond to business emails while taking time off from work. Unfortunately, those additional minutes and moments often become a couple hours, because you get caught up in the task. When this is done excessively, stress and burnout can become problems. Here are some facts that may help provide a reality check.

  • According to the International Labour Organization, Americans work 137 more hours per year than Japanese workers, 260 more hours per year than British workers, and 499 more hours per year than French workers.
  • In the U.S., 85.8 percent of males and 66.5 percent of females work more than 40 hours per week.
  • On average, U.S. employees only took 51 percent of their eligible time off in a 12-month period based on Glassdoor/Harris Poll research.
  • Of U.S. employees who have taken time off, 61 percent report doing some work while on vacation.
  • 75-90 percent of all visits to primary care physicians are for stress-related issues.

As we move into the holiday season when most people take time off from work, try these suggestions to help make your time off a real vacation.

Disconnect to connect

Smartphones, tablets and other devices are great tools that help you use every possible moment to complete work tasks. If you can use them for non-work purposes during the holidays without peeking at your business email or meeting calendar, more power to you. If you cannot, then set aside a limited block of time over the holidays to look at work emails and calendars. Once this time is up, shut off the devices and engage the people and events around of you.

Put “urgent” into context

While some issues may in fact be urgent requiring a timely response (e.g., a cybersecurity breach, paychecks not being generated for employees, worker safety put at risk, etc.), every email or voicemail that you receive does not fall into this category. Define for yourself what is truly urgent compared to what can be handled as time allows with your vacation schedule.

Know what not to do

If you are a busy executive or professional, realize that you may have too many job responsibilities to do in a fixed amount of time. So, learn to recognize and accept what you are not going to do in that time frame.

Don’t substitute one for another

If you have been able to keep your drive to accomplish work tasks in check as you take time off, there is one other thing to keep in mind—be careful not to let accomplishing holiday tasks become a replacement obsession.


Ryan Lahti is the founder and managing principal of OrgLeader, LLC. Stay up to date on Ryan’s STEM-based organization tweets here: @ryanlahti

(Photo: FC12 Skiing 05, Flickr)