jetskiWant to know what I did last week?

Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Actually, that’s not true. I learned to ride a jet ski. I played a lot of golf. I read two books. I ate too much, drank too much, stayed up late, slept in, downloaded Pokemon Go, took photos of a couple of bears, played some poker, sat around a fire, roasted some marshmallows, swam in a lake, and spent a LOT of time catching up with my family.

The “nothing” part applied to work. I did no work. None.

I was on vacation.

You remember vacation, right?

If so, you’re in the minority.

According to Harvard Business Review reporters Shawn Achor and Michelle Gielan, “Americans used to take almost three weeks of vacation a year (20.3 days) in 2000, but they took only 16.2 days of vacation in 2015. Over the past 15 years, Americans have lost nearly a week of vacation.”

Moreover, according to a new study by the U.S. Travel Association and Project: Time Off, “for the first time in recorded history, more than half of Americans (55 percent) left vacation days unused, which equates to 658 million unused vacation days.”

The Harvard Business Review article breaks this down beautifully, as follows:

Remember, this is paid time off that is not being used. Let us ask you two questions to make this idea come alive: Would you do your job for free? And do you take all your vacation days? If you say no to the first, you had better say yes to the second.

In truth, if you are not taking all your time off, you’re not working more — you’re volunteering your time. This is our favorite conclusion from the study: “By giving up this time off, Americans are effectively volunteering hundreds of millions of days of free work for their employers, which results in $61.4 billion in forfeited benefits.”

And don’t give me that nonsense that working longer hours and ignoring your vacation makes you more productive or more promotable. It’s a myth. In fact, the opposite is true: Taking your vacation time actually increases the likelihood that you will get a raise or a promotion.

So take a break, folks. Your employers are paying you to take some time off. Why aren’t you taking it? Get out of town. Relax. Forget about work and do something fun for a change.

Study after study shows you’ll come back refreshed, more productive, and considerably more promotable than if you had stayed in the office.

Your free time doesn’t belong to your employer. It belongs to you.

Take it. Make it yours. Do anything you want with it.

Just don’t do any work.

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