Productivity and GTD

Cut The Crap And Take a Vacation!

AUTHOR: Francisco Sáez

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After the last economic crisis, it seems that we must learn to be more productive, to do more with less. In recent years this has led, mainly small businesses and self-employed people, to limit somewhat their vacations.

Actually, whether there is a crisis or not, you should always try to make the most of your resources (at the end of the day, that’s what productivity is). But one thing has nothing to do with the other. Reducing breaks and vacations is, paradoxically, a counter-productive move.

Are you thinking about not taking a vacation, shortening them or completing part of your job in the beach? That’s a bad idea. It’s bad for your health, for your productivity and for the country economy in general—when you are on vacation, you spend more money and this helps many other companies to grow.

Back in the ’20s, Henry Ford realized that better results were obtained with a working week of 5 days and 40 hours instead of 6 days and 48 hours. We seem to have forgotten that the holidays were introduced early last century, because employees returned revitalized and produced much more after a few days of rest. Breaks and vacations allow us to recover the levels of attention needed to be efficient in our work.

Although you can get a temporary increase in productivity by increasing working hours during the week, it has been shown that, after 3 weeks, productivity can become even negative (i.e., worse results are achieved by working 60 hours than by working 40). Working for longer hours increases the time necessary to regain your attention span and, sometimes, does not allow to recover it totally.

A study conducted in 2009 shows how Finland and France, two of the countries with the most vacation days per worker per year (40) are on the top of the most competitive countries in the world, with a working efficiency well above average (ratio of GDP and total hours worked). The same applies to other European countries such as Sweden, Austria, Belgium, The Netherlands and Luxembourg.

Work related stress is one of the most important health problems in our society. And stress affects not only our brain but also our body. People who do not take regular vacations are at least 30% more likely to suffer a heart attack than those who do.

For businesses, holidays actually generate great benefits of productivity, a good atmosphere in the workplace and employee retention. Some see the month of August as a month of missed work by millions of workers. Psychologists now say that it is a month that boosts productivity for the rest of the year.

Taking a good vacation relieves stress. Of course, you must disconnect if you want to totally eliminate the sources of stress. So take a vacation the old fashioned way. Leave work at the office and worry about enjoying and taking care of yourself. Sleep better, eat better and spend more time with your family. Rest is essential to be productive.

And if you have or manage a business, don’t be a jerk and make sure everyone uses all their vacation days as it is due.

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