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The Importance Of Vacations

I was on vacation in Rome with my two sons for some time last week.

Rome is a stunningly beautiful city, rich in history, culture and art. Everywhere you turn, you see bits of ancient wall, incredibly beautiful fountains and impressive sculptures. Buildings hundreds of years old fill the city and line streets that have been around even longer. And Rome is not even Italy’s most beautiful city!

Curiously, in spite of all this inspiration—and I am a sucker for ruins, sculpture and painting—I hardly wrote a thing, few ideas were put into the Moleskine notebook I carry with me always and I experienced precious few inspirations. This inevitably happens to me when I travel on vacation. Nevertheless, it worries me.

But once I returned to my home-office in Erps-Kwerps, my head was full of ideas, solutions to problems and new plans. Since coming back, I have been filling page after page in my Moleskine and my productivity has clearly increased.


Why? My hypothesis is that when I take a physical vacation, my brain takes mental vacation. It changes from output mode: ideas, articles and writing my novel; to input mode: absorbing beauty, inspiration and insight. In a sense, it allows my mental batteries to recharge. It allows my mind to absorb new bits of information that might inspire me at some future time. And it allows my mind to relax. The input mode is less demanding than the output mode.

Then, when I return to my home-office and pack the kids off to school, my brain starts outputting ideas that become the basis of articles, aspects of the novel and new facilitation and training activities.

Moreover, I do not believe I am unique in benefiting from a physical and mental vacation.


As an entrepreneur who has launched three businesses, I have on several occasions in the past found myself working long hours, seven days a week and forgoing vacations owing to lack of time and reduced income. As I have grown older, I realize that was a mistake. I was doing myself no favors and was probably reducing my productivity as a result of working without break. In other words, regular vacation breaks would doubtless have made me more productive than non-stop working did.

Vacations need not be exotic or require international travel (but when you live in a small European country like Belgium, as I do, almost any travel is international). It simply requires a break from work, spending time with family, or friends, or alone, and doing something you enjoy.

It could be spending a few days on a beach lying in the sun. It could be going hiking. Short on cash? Stay with a friend, bring her a lovely gift and invite her to come stay with you when she needs a break.


If you run a company that restricts the number of vacation days your employees can take, you may be making a mistake. Making people work longer hours in order to do more work leads to stress, mistakes, and reduced productivity. Encouraging your employees to take breaks is not only good for their health, but is also good for your company’s health!

Indeed, a growing number of companies today are no longer setting the number of vacation days their employees take. Rather, they are letting employees do as they wish. Those employees are then being judged not by how many hours they spend at the desk, but by their accomplishments.

That makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it?

Cover image and top image from Shutterstock

This is a cross-post from Jeffrey Paul Baumgartner.

Jeffrey Baumgartner is the author of The Way of the Innovation Master and Report 103, creator of Jenni innovation process mgmt software, founder of jpb.com & father of two great sons. Follow him on Twitter at @creativeJeffrey.

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