Three Steps to Taking All Your Time Off

It’s the season of resolutions. What made the top of your list? Do you want to travel more? Dive into a new hobby? Spend more time with family? There’s a good chance that no matter your resolution time off will help to get you to stick to it.

After a career being a work martyr, well before I became Managing Director of Project: Time Off, I made a commitment to myself and my family that I would use all of my time off. Between a busy schedule and the number of days earned, I realized it would be impossible to do this without planning.

Just over half (54%) of American households set aside time to plan out the use of paid time off for the year. It may seem simple, but planning your vacation time has its benefits. First off, you have something to look forward to and that alone increases your happiness. Americans who plan out vacation time are happier in almost every category measured in a 2015 Project: Time Off survey. In fact, the only category planners weren’t happier was relationships with their children, where planners and non-planners were equally satisfied. 

Differences in Happiness Between Those Who Plan Their Time Off and Those Who Don't, Project: Time Off, 2015

Of note, the two categories where planners reported the greatest differences in happiness from non-planners were with their personal financial situations (79% vs. 69%) and their jobs (75% to 69%).

So how do you plan out all of your time off?

  1. CONFIRM YOUR TIME OFF BENEFITS.  To get started, look up your company’s time off benefits. Your benefits may have changed from last year as many organizations offer additional days based on your years of service. In addition to vacation days, determine when your office is closed for holidays. You can maximize your vacation days by tacking on to an office holiday closure.  If you are planning with a significant other, make sure they also have taken stock of their vacation days and office closures.
     
  2. PLAN WITH A YEAR VIEW CALENDAR. Key part of this step: printing. You can ask my team; I work in a paper-free world. I don’t keep files. I don’t write notes in a notebook. This is the one case where a computer isn’t going to help you. The visual of seeing the year all laid out is key to understanding the whole picture. Start by adding in holiday closures and days you know you can’t take off (a colleague already requested it, busy season, work events). Do the same for your significant other. If you have kids, add in their vacations and school closures. This is the part where your resolutions, dreams, and goals for the year come in. What are you going to cross off your bucket list this year? Plot out your vacation days. I’m not saying you need to know what you’re going to do with every day. Often times, I reserve days off and come up with a plan later. Getting it on the calendar is what matters most. 
     
  3. SHARE WITH YOUR MANAGER FOR APPROVAL. Vacation responsibly, folks. Once you have your schedule together, share it with your team for consideration and manager for approval. By getting your time off on their radar now, it will be easier to take the time off when the day comes. After you’ve received approval, block the days as out of office on your calendar. Depending on your office, add your vacation days to a master calendar or put reminders on your team’s calendars.

A day into the new year and I’m already looking forward to my next vacation. You can, too—it just takes a little planning.