The Happy Engineer Podcast

114: Do You Need a Vacation? Go from Escape to Energy by Shifting the Vacation Paradigm

In this episode, I debunk the fallacy surrounding vacations as a remedy for work-related stress and dissatisfaction.

Summer is here and vacation plans are in the air. Join me as we explore a fresh mindset that encourages intentional time off for energy renewal, and a shift away from relying solely on vacations to address career burnout.

Discover practical strategies for achieving sustainable success and true rest that go beyond the traditional vacation narrative.

Get ready to redefine your approach to time off and unlock a new level of balance and fulfillment in your professional journey.

So press play and let’s chat… it’s time to rethink our vacation days!

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The Happy Engineer Podcast






Previous Episode 113: Stop Being Nice and Start Leading Kind with Karyn Ross | Award-Winning Author and Leadership Expert




Please note the full transcript is 90-95% accuracy. Reference the podcast audio to confirm exact quotations.

[00:00:00] Zach White: Happy engineer, welcome back! I hope you’re having a great summer, and I’m curious, do you have any great vacations planned? Or maybe you’ve already been on one. I know summertime when the kids are outta school, or even if you’re single or married without kids, it’s a time that we love to travel and try new things.

Expand to Read Full Transcript

[00:00:18] And I’m just curious, where are you going? What kind of trips do you have planned? I’d love to hear about them. Shoot me an email. I’d love to understand what you’ve got on the plate for you. I’m headed to Hawaii soon for a week with my wife for my birthday. I was born on July 19th. I’m excited about the trip, but I do have some bad news for you and I know it’s no fun to start a, start a conversation with bad news.

[00:00:42] But here’s the bad news. You have been sold a lie about vacations. You’ve been sold a lie about vacations. First, tell me if you can relate to this. You’re at work, you’re busting your chops, doing your job on some really tough projects. We’re getting closer to the deadline pressure’s. Building that issues list is growing.

[00:01:08] You got senior leaders asking for those daily updates. Your boss is really laying the hammer down. You’re putting in a little bit of extra time. Maybe you’re hitting the, computer again on nights and weekends. You’re going back into the lab and running those extra tests after hours. Things are getting tough.

[00:01:24] It’s getting a little bit harder to get out of bed the next morning because you’re working so hard. You are on that downward spiral that you know, leads toward burnout. So you say to yourself, I need a vacation. Have you been there? Do you know exactly the feeling I’m talking about? I can’t tell you how many times in my engineering career I felt that downward pressure, getting tired, getting burned out, just cannot wait to get to that launch date for the new product that we’re developing and saying to myself, I can’t wait for this to be over so I can just take a vacation.

[00:02:04] Well, the truth is, Vacations don’t solve burnout. That is a lie, and I don’t know where we got told that you can somehow solve for a situation at work that’s not sustainable, that’s not working for us by taking a vacation. But it seems like everybody thinks this is the case. Oh, you’re getting, you’re getting burned out.

[00:02:29] You just need to plan a vacation. Oh, you’re getting tired. Oh, it’s been a whole year since you’ve taken a trip. All you need to get your life back. In its orientated, uh, back orientated, what a word, uh, just to get your life back on track. Is take a vacation that’ll help you get balanced, that will help you get everything back to the way it was.

[00:02:50] Just go take a trip. Well, here’s the truth. Vacations don’t solve burnout. Now, really quick, just in case you think I’m anti vacation, that is not the case at all. I’m a huge, huge fan of vacations. In fact, I would recommend to you that you take all your vacation. That’s actually tip number 12 in my ebook where I go through 49 things that are simple, practical, actionable tips that will help you to accelerate your career growth.

[00:03:22] Number 12 is to take all your vacation. And don’t save it all for the very end of the year and try to take it in one big chunk. We’ll talk about that more. In fact, if you want to get a free copy of that ebook, there is a link in the show notes. If you go right there, there’s a link. You can click and download the full ebook for free, and you can read through all 49 tips.

[00:03:43] In fact, if you would execute on one of those, Every single week for a year, I promise you that you’re gonna experience acceleration in your career. It’s the same simple, practical advice that your mentors and your grandma gave you, but we so often forget to implement it, and we have to have those daily simple disciplines to crush it in our careers, in our lives.

[00:04:05] So go get a copy of the ebook and you’ll see number 12 is Take all your vacation. But we’ve been sold this lie that taking vacation is the cure to burnout. And it came up with my friend Alec. Alec is a part of our platinum Mastermind, and he just got back from a two week trip to Greece with his wife.

[00:04:25] Talk about a dream trip. By the way, if you haven’t had a chance to go to Greece, my wife is there right now actually as I’m recording this, and there are some incredibly beautiful spots in Santorini and Crete. So go check that out. It’s amazing. But he got back from this two week trip to Greece. It was his second day back in the office.

[00:04:43] And he was asking our mastermind group for support on how to accelerate getting, getting back into the flow, getting organized again, feeling like he had everything going. And I don’t know about you, but vacations, it seems like the stress on either end is even higher. You have to work overtime to get ready to leave.

[00:05:01] Getting everything ready for your trip. And then when you get back, you feel like you have a week or two weeks of work to catch up on, as if somehow you’re gonna consume two weeks of information in two days. And it’s really tough. The pressure feels even higher when you get back. And Alec was in that place and we were going through just some basic tactics and strategies for how to ramp up.

[00:05:22] And honestly, I noticed that he was already doing most of the. You know, simple things that needed done. He was actually doing quite well. And so I pressed a little deeper. I said, Alec, what’s prompting the question? Because you’re already implementing the strategies that we teach in lifestyle engineering.

[00:05:38] You’re doing a great job. What is it that makes you feel like you’re not on track here? And when we got a bit deeper, He said, well, well, honestly, I’m a little bit disappointed that coming back from this long trip that I don’t feel more energized and more excited and passionate about diving back into these projects.

[00:06:00] If anything, I’m just having a really hard time getting any energy at all towards this work, and I. Looked back at the situation and said, well, hold on a second. You know really quick. You were just in Greece a couple days ago, right? It’s like, yeah, it hasn’t been that long. Said, traveling back from Greece, that’s a long trip from Greece back to the West coast.

[00:06:23] It’s a lot of hours in the air. It’s a lot of hours in transit. It’s a huge time zone shift. It makes a lot of sense that your energy would be low. And energy management is important every day. It has a huge impact on how we face every aspect of our work and our life. And yeah, you’re gonna be a little bit tired.

[00:06:45] That’s normal. But also it reflects this mindset, this lie that we have been sold, that going on a vacation will somehow reignite the things that we need in our lives at work. To help us be inspired and passionate and motivated, and driven in the office, and that is not true. Vacations don’t solve burnout.

[00:07:09] Vacations don’t create purpose and meaning in your vocation. You cannot vacate the problems that are happening for you in the office. You can go on a vacation and have a great time, but when you come back, those problems are going to be there. If you don’t have boundaries in place at work, you can vacate those challenges of having your boundaries broken.

[00:07:33] But when you come back, you’re stepping right back into that same challenging environment. If you have a toxic leader or a toxic culture around you at work, yeah, you can vacate that and feel good for a week, but when you get back, you step right back in. To that toxic culture, you cannot vacate a burnout at work.

[00:07:54] So let’s be really clear about what we want to do with our time investment around vacation. And this is exactly what I shared with Alec and our Platinum Mastermind. I said, look, there’s two different reasons that we would take time off of work. One of them is to go have experiences, to go to Greece, to go to Disney World, to go to Disneyland, to have a new experience, to live and enjoy this world.

[00:08:22] All the amazing things in it to experience our values and new ways to have a new adventure, right? Those are all great reasons to, to build relationships, you know, going with a, a wife or a husband, taking your family, maybe going with friends, meeting new people. There’s lots of great reasons to go and expand your horizons and experience the world.

[00:08:43] That is one type of vacation to go on. But the other would be to take time off of work for the purpose of energy renewal to recharge. And those are different purposes. You know, it’s one thing to say. Laying on a beach, reading a book helps me to recharge. But if you’re traveling to Fiji and you’re on an airplane for two days in all the tra travel and transit stress, that can come.

[00:09:14] And then when you do that coming back, you’re gonna be tired when you get back to work anyway. So we need to be very mindful about this idea of energy management and the role that vacation plays. And before I even explain more about that, let’s just be really clear the things that. We need to accelerate our careers to have incredible balance, to love what we do, and feel that sense of joy, happiness, and passion every day vacations don’t.

[00:09:42] Change our mindset toward work vacations. Don’t create a new meaning and purpose and help us to get deeply connected to our values at work vacations. Don’t make your priorities clear at work and help you say yes to the right things and no to the things that need to be said. No to vacations don’t make you more productive at work.

[00:10:00] Vacations don’t help you build your network with the people who need to be in your, in your network at work to accelerate. Whether it’s mentorship and sponsorship, or building those key relationships, vacations don’t help you execute a playbook and a plan to get your career back on track or to accelerate your goals and dreams.

[00:10:18] I’m sorry, it doesn’t. So the lie that taking a vacation is all you need to do to get things sorted and back on track at work, I don’t know where we bought into that, but it’s not. The case. So let’s set aside the, the style of travel and vacation, where we’re gonna go have new experiences and let’s talk about a different kind of break, a different kind of separation from work for the purpose.

[00:10:45] Of refilling your tank, and here’s what I want you to do. Rather than vacating your problems to go do something that drains energy, we are going to step into an intentional time of energy renewal. So here’s the action I would encourage you to take, rather than a week long trip that drains you, take a single day off and give yourself the gift of energy in your life.

[00:11:15] How do we do that one day off? And there’s two different types of activities we’re gonna fill that day with. The first type are things that bring you energy now, and the second are activities that will prevent energy loss, or what I call energy vampires from hurting you in the future. I do encourage you to actually take a day off of work rather than use a Saturday or Sunday to do this because you’re already conditioned around how you use your weekend time, and it’s gonna have a bigger impact on your energy if we take a day off of our actual job.

[00:11:53] So take that day off and first fill it with activities that bring you energy now. Things like getting a massage. Get a facial go to yoga class. Take time to meditate. Go visit someone in your family who lives nearby and spend some time or call somebody to catch up with them who you haven’t talked to in a while.

[00:12:11] Have a loving and nurturing conversation. Read a great book. Listen to your favorite music. Play your favorite sport. Do your favorite hobby. Pamper yourself. Do things intentionally that fill your tank. And a quick sidebar on this. I do not know anyone who truthfully is recharged by sitting on their butt in front of Netflix, eating Doritos and Cheetos all day long.

[00:12:38] Don’t do that. Scrolling social media, watching Netflix, that is not the definition of deep recharging and energy giving activities. All right, it’s my soapbox there. Now, let’s go back to the second category. Do something on this day off that will help you in the future to not lose energy, take care of those energy vampires.

[00:13:05] So what are examples of this? Well, let’s declutter your life, starting with your mind. Take a blank piece of paper and write down all of those to-dos and all of those things that are causing stress in your life. And write them all down. Get them out of your mind. Declutter your brain. Declutter your environment.

[00:13:23] Clean the house, clean out the garage. Those spaces that you live in and work in that are dirty, that are unorganized, clean them up. You might, take time for some automation. Tasks that you’ve been wanting to automate or invest time to get them off your plate or delegate to someone else. Or like I said, maybe hire someone else to clean your house.

[00:13:43] Figure out who that person can be. Do some of these things that will help you to minimize tasks in the future. Maybe you go into your calendar, get more organized, set up new boundaries, those new work blocks. Do some time blocking and planning. Think ahead, think longer term. Anything that you can do to resolve conflict.

[00:14:06] Maybe there’s an unresolved issue with your husband or wife, something with a kid that you need to take care of. Set aside time for that hard conversation. I. And I know what you’re thinking, Zach, why would I plan a vacation a day off of work where I’m gonna go have hard conversations with my husband or wife?

[00:14:24] That doesn’t sound like a vacation at all. Well, guess what? If you’ll resolve that conflict today, Think of how much more energy you’ll have every day going forward without having that hanging over your head all the time, or cleaning your office, cleaning out the garage, cleaning the kitchen, and getting into a beautiful, clean work environment.

[00:14:44] Think of how that’s gonna impact the way you feel every day going forward. We need to approach this day off from a different mindset. It’s not the go do things that you’ve never done before that consume energy and leave you tired when you go back to work. It’s investing in the things that are gonna help you have a sustainable, successful career every day going forward.

[00:15:09] Add this in as a different way to think about time off, not as opposed to those fun and exciting trips, but in addition to vacations, don’t solve burnout. How you show up to your career and life every day is what solves burnout. Your mindset, your purpose, your priorities, your productivity, the people around you and your plan or playbook that you execute.

[00:15:34] Those are the things that will solve for a situation you’re unhappy in. That’s leading to burnout, vacations. Are just that. It’s vacating all of the things that are both working and not working in your life here to go and experience something new. So let’s take time off with intention to focus on energy renewal and rest.

[00:16:00] I hope this helps you as you’re planning the next month, the next quarter, the next year. Where will you take some time intentionally to help you with what you need the most? And not get confused that you can somehow solve for a burning out situation by vacating those problems. Let’s do this.