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Vacation Makes You MORE Productive: NeuroScience Confirms the Hustle is Overrated

5 min read
Apr 24 2019

Taking vacation and time off work is so important, and when you master this, it's gonna change the way you work. It's gonna change the way you build your schedule and structure your business around free time.

You see, vacation time and time off work isn't just a luxury, right?
It's not just for those who've achieved success in their business and have their business up and going seamlessly.
It can literally HELP you get your business up and going seamlessly.

I know what’s it’s like to be a business owner or executive and be in startup mode, or even scale up mode. Where you feel like you have soooooooo many things to do and you’re juggling a ton of stuff, and you need to go faster. When you begin to feel like that day in and day out - you get into what I call "stress-brain" - and I’ll talk more about what happens to your body when you’re living in stress-brain in a few minutes.

But I want to frame up your perspective in this way ... 

Prefer to watch the video?  I've embedded the video-version of this blog right here for you! Enjoy 😎



Time off is part of the culture code

Your view about taking time off - whether it’s you or an employee or a colleague, partner, vendor, contractor - anyone in your circle … is a cultural element. And by that I mean … it’s part of the culture code you are creating for your business, either intentionally or by default. How you view and model taking time off sets a tone for your entire company! It sets a tone for whether others will follow your lead, and share or adopt your values.

Now - two things about this before we go too much further. 

First, being able to be intentional about time off work  begins with first of all understanding why it’s important  physically. From a brain and body perspective. From a physical and mental performance perspective.

Next, it’s cemented with the values you hold about time away from work.
Do you value yourself as a whole person? Both achieving and success-driven you, as well as resting and having fun you?
Do you value your life away from work? Time with your family, time in nature, time with the kids, time traveling, time doing hobbies?
Do you value taking care of your self and letting your body have the rest and rejuvenation it needs to keep performing?

As I’m saying this, certain people, certain clients, come to mind - those who spent 15+ hours a day at the office day in and day out. And also those who had clear boundaries to protect their time so they could allocate it better.

I use to work 18 hour days, seven days a week. Back when I didn’t know better. And during those eight or so years, I barely took a day off.  I gave birth on a Thursday, left the hospital on a Saturday, and went back to work on Monday morning. The second time I gave birth, my OB asked if I had gotten a new Blackberry because I was literally on it in the delivery room both times! HA!

When I went on vacation with my husband and kids, I not only took my laptop, but I packed my 27in iMac machine and set it up in the condo so while my husband and kids played on the beach, I worked in the room - with a nice view of the ocean, of course!

Y’ALL that’s CRAZY!!

So if this is something you’re struggling with, I get it. I’ve been there.  Looking at the research helped me to be more intentional about the life I wanted to create.

Earlier I mentioned what happens to your body and brain when you get tired and get into stress-brain day in and day out, without giving yourself a break.  Let's look at some of that brain research. 

Brain research

The research and neuroscience is crystal clear that too much hustle at one time stifles our ability to do our best work, and it's critical that we walk away sometimes. There was actually a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology where they studied the neuro-cognitive function in participants who worked 32 hours a week, 40 hours a week, and 55 plus hours per week.

They found that those who work more hours per week experience a rapid decline in their fluid intelligence, the part of your brain that involves memory, abstract thinking, creative ability, the ability to solve novel problems, and all those are things that CEOs and entrepreneurs and business owners need to be able to grow and scale and be innovative and differentiate.

Many business executives I know are working way more than 55 hours per week!!  

Working long hours and not giving yourself a break is compromising the quality of your work, and it's creating bad habits that will prevent you from getting more done and going faster in your business. When we feel tired and drained, it's time, literally, to walk away from the task at hand and give our brains a chance to relax.

When it comes to vacations and taking time off work, the best advice I can give you from both experience and from neuroscience is this:

  • Schedule time off on your calendar at the beginning of each quarter and each month
  • Take full days off here and there
  • Set limits on how long you'll work each day.
  • At the end of the day, turn it off, and go engage in hobbies and family time and spend time in nature. And when you come back to it, you'll be amazed at how productive you are.

Give your brain an assignment, and walk away

One final word of advice is to give your brain a task as you leave the office and let it work for you in the background. There was research done at Carnegie Mellon University that showed if you give your brain a task and you start working on a task, the prefrontal cortex of your brain starts to engage and to light up as you're deeply engaged in solving this problem when working on this task. And then ... if you switch tasks and you go do something else and you do something related to numbers versus visual for example, the prefrontal cortex of your brain continues to stay lit up actively working to solve the problem even after you've walked away from the task.

So my advice is this. Before you leave at the end of the day, make a list of the most important tasks that you must accomplish the next day, and go ahead and look at the background material. Go ahead and look at the research. Go ahead and look at the emails and look at the material that you need to use in order to solve these problems. And then turn it off, and then leave for the day. Because by doing so, you're activating the prefrontal cortex of your brain to come up with a solution for you, and as you go home and as you go out in nature and take a walk and as you go spend time with your kids and your family, your brain's going to continue processing that for you as you sleep, as you drive, as you take a shower. And when you come back the next day, you'll be amazed at how much more productive you are and how quickly you arrive at answers when you're well rested and you've given your brain the assignment to work this out for you.

You can clearly see the value in taking this time for yourself, not just to invest in your own wellbeing, not just for self-care, not just for self-love, but really, it's a performance hack in your business.