By Cheryl G. Murphy, OD
Sept. 23, 2015
If you don’t take time to take a break from your job, you may be hurting more than yourself; you may be hurting profits.
A recent article in Fortune said that 41 percent of Americans do not use their paid time off. To me that number is staggering. I work as an optometrist part time at two different practices, and I am also a freelance writer. Between balancing all aspects of my professional life and my personal life, I found myself burnt out this summer. I “didn’t have time” to take a vacation I said, but I did anyway with my family in August, and its impact reverberated through me in more ways than one.
The Colonial era glasses Dr. Murphy and her family saw while touring Colonial Williamsburg in August. Dr. Murphy says a vacation can revive your passion for optometry, and for taking care of yourself and your patients.
One way my vacation helped me was it whipped me back into shape physically by taking me out of my normal routines. I walked several miles a day at a leisurely pace while touring different parts of the country, and although I ate out at restaurants the entire seven days, I snacked less in between meals and drank less coffee and more water.
Walking so much cleared my mind, and it felt great to be outside getting so much fresh air and exercise. I actually came back from vacation craving more exercise, and have since dusted off my gym pass, and now use it more regularly. This has not only benefited my health; I believe it has also benefited my interactions with patients.
As doctors need to practice more of what we preach. If you are telling your patients to exercise regularly, drink more water, eat fruits and veggies and use sunblock and sunglasses, you should be, too. They will heed your warnings better if they see that you are living proof that those practices can benefit someone.
For example, if you are recommending UV protection for patients, they will take your warnings about the sun’s harmful rays more seriously if you are not sunburned while you are advising them. Getting fit and taking care of our own bodies is one of the best things we as health care professionals can do. We have memorized the science behind it. Now it’s time to start sowing those habits into our own lives to reap the proven health benefits that a healthy diet and regular exercise can provide.
Another way we can benefit from using our vacation time is that it gives us perspective. It puts our professional life on hold, and although that pause is relatively brief, it may allow us to see more of the big picture about where we have been, where we are now and where we want to go professionally. I was feeling stressed out about one particular project, which I could not quite get off the ground. Leaving my day-to-day world behind gave me a bird’s eye view of my life without that project hanging over my head, and allowed me the clarity to see that when the timing is right, the project will fall into place. If it doesn’t work out, something else will be around the corner. Sometimes in life you have to know when to fight and when to retreat. As Thomas Edison once said, “I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
Also, taking a vacation not only puts your professional life on pause; it gives you a rest from your social life, too. Being on vacation with our families, loved ones, or a few close friends, allows us to socially connect in person with those who matter to us the most and disconnect from the noise and chatter of hundreds of social media friends online. Spending time with close friends, and making memories with my family, has proven to be an effective stress-buster for me, and vacations allow a lot of time for that.
Much of my vacation revolved around history and the American Revolution. It was awesome to see the wondrous sites that DC, Virginia and Maryland had to offer. However, it was one particular pair of spectacles in Colonial Williamsburg that caught my eye and reinvigorated my spirit and passion for the “craft” of optometry. Many “spectacle” measurers, makers and sellers have come before me.
For hundreds of years, even before optometry became a formal profession, people have seen better with the help of glasses. It is astounding to think of how far our profession has come in helping people see better, but also in helping them to maintain healthy eyes. I can’t even begin to imagine where optometry might go in the next 250 years, but seeing those glasses reminded me that I am part of something great, and inspired me to go home and get back at it with a renewed sense of purpose.
Boost Job Performance
Not only can taking a vacation possibly make you healthier, less stressed and reinvigorated, but it may also make you a better employee. Inc. magazine published an article in June 2015 called “Why You Need to Encourage Employees to Use Their Vacation Time” in which they cite studies that found that people were more productive and made more sales after having a vacation. It also says that recent studies have found that employees who do use their vacation time are more likely to get promoted and to get a raise than those who do not use it. It seems taking a much needed break can make employees feel more positive and creative. It also allows them to become more productive so that sales climb and revenues soar.
Even if you work part time or freelance (like me), and don’t receive any paid-time-off benefits, it is still important for you to take time off. You will be losing out on some pay, but you will be rewarded in doing what is best for your health, emotional and mental well-being. So, go make memories with your family, friends and loved ones. Take pictures. Slow down. Smile. Enjoy the moments. Forget about the little things, and focus on what matters.
Taking a vacation may make the time you spend at work more meaningful upon your return.
How has giving employees time off benefited your practice? If you are an employee, have you found yourself happier and more productive at work after a vacation? Have you seen revenues and sales increase after you, or someone who works for you, have returned from a vacation?