Laura Petrolino

Vacation Time: How to Grow Professionally from Time Away

By: Laura Petrolino | March 6, 2017 | 

Vacation Time: How to Grow Professionally from Time AwayDo you use your vacation time?

Stop for a moment and think back when you last took a vacation.

Like a real vacation.

No work emails.

No quick calls with clients.

No work of any kind.

Before I joined Arment Dietrich my answer to those questions would have been sometime around college. 

Not only did I not take vacation. I simply didn’t see the value.

Sure I’d take a couple of days off here and there, but a week?!?

The thought of a full week off made my head spin. I mean, I felt absolutely indulgent when I took a full weekend off! For that matter, a full day.

The Fear of Vacation Time

The first time Gini Dietrich made me take a vacation was in conjunction with a competition.

I was sort of petrified.

We had just signed two new clients. I was going to a conference with one of them immediately after my vacation. I already felt behind (because I keep up the belief there are 36 hours in a day, when there are actually only 24).

How in the world could I take a week of vacation time?

A part of me felt everything would crash down around me the moment I stepped away.

And then an even more frightened part of me worried it wouldn’t.

I’d come back and everyone would be like “What? You were gone? Oh we barely even noticed.” And then I’d be replaced with an office dog or a break time air hockey machine (and we don’t even have an office).

Weakened by Gini’s stubbornness and lack of carbs, I begrudgingly accepted my vacation time fate.

(Gini’s Note: It’s not a lack of carbs. I have no problem eating carbs. It’s lack of protein.)

Luckily I’m still here.

Embrace Vacation Time as Career Development

In fact, as you read this I’m on a beach somewhere in Florida.

Last week I was telling a friend this is the first time I’ve not had a ton of anxiety going into a vacation,. Instead I am excited—both for the break and the positive things that occur professionally every time I go away.

  1. Brain break: Your brain gets a break and it thanks you for it. You need time away. That’s a psychological fact. Your brain needs off time, as much as your body does. If you’ve ever tried to push really, really hard day after day after day in the gym (or with your sport of choice), you’ll know, you reach a point that your body just says no. Your brain does the same thing.
  2. Delegation: You learn what you can really delegate. Without a doubt, when I come back from vacation I realize there were tasks I was hanging on to, or being a helicopter manager about, that I really should have just let go a long time ago. I come back, after a week of someone else handling this task, and voila: Nothing has changed.
  3. Value: You realize where you are most valuable. Likewise, you see the areas where your absence is most experienced. This is also helpful to understand the value you provide and how you can maximize it.
  4. Efficiency: You see efficiencies you missed previously. Stepping out of your normal pattern helps you see where you were not as efficient as you could have been.
  5. Perspective: You view things from a new, fresh point-of-view. One that can only be achieved by stepping away.

Prepare Ahead for Time Away

I’d guess approximately zero people currently reading this blog post have the type of job they can just step away from for a week without some sort of preparation. Or at least do so without leaving your organization and/or clients in a big mess.

You need to prepare. That might take on different forms and levels depending on your role and organization.

My goal when I go away is to cause as little additional stress to the rest of our team or our clients.

So I prepare according.

This means:

  • Prepare clients in advance so we have time to review anything they need prior to my absence.
  • Have a plan for who they should contact for all of their needs.
  • Discuss any additional responsibilities team members need to take on, or things they should be aware of.
  • Have a clear plan in place for any process you are normally a part of, so team members can respond accordingly.
  • Do any task in advance only you can do. Make sure other team members are aware it’s been completed and next steps.

For me this type of preparation allows me to enjoy my vacation more because I’m not as stressed about clients needs I can’t respond to, or team members forced to carry a large additional load.

(I’m still normally slightly stressed about it, but I’m getting there).

And there you have it.

Vacation time IS important and you need to take it.

Every time I come back from a vacation I’m better.

Our team works more efficiently, and I bring new perspective and energy into everything I do.

About Laura Petrolino

Laura Petrolino is the chief client officer at Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She also is a weekly contributor to the award-winning PR blog, Spin Sucks. Join the Spin Sucks   community.

  • paulakiger

    I have been enjoying your vacation pictures! You make lots of great points here. (But I have to say, Gini, I think it was LAURA who was weakened by lack of carbs ……. if it was pre-competition ….. if my years as a bodybuilder’s inlaw taught me anything … but I digress.) // It is 500% to Gini’s credit as a leader that she is so insistent on this. Very few leaders really place value in all the bullet points you listed for vacationing ……. // The flip side for me (and for the increasing number of gig economy workers) is ……….. it’s becoming a bigger issue now that many of us a) depend on income that isn’t available if we are not working as gig economy workers (and I realize this is a choice, just an observation from my vantage point) and b) don’t have defined “time off” parameters — I’m new enough at Part Time Gig #2 (which I *love*!) that I worry about taking ANY time off … and when I asked how much is too much I was told “if it becomes a problem we’ll let you know. I think many many features of the gig economy are going to transform our work world. // But anyway — enjoy your vacay — it’s well earned and will indeed fortify you! 🙂

    • Ohhhhh. She meant my stubbornness and her lack of carbs. I definitely do not have a lack of carbs (endurance athlete), but I DO have a lack of protein.

      • paulakiger

        HA! I’ll take your word for it! It just gave me flashbacks to my brother in law eating all chicken breasts for weeks (maybe an exaggeration … and there were egg whites too) but clearing out a Burger King drive through after a competition!

        • My problem is I’m a vegetarian. So it’s REALLY hard to get 200 grams of protein every day. At best, I can do 100 grams. So I may be reconsidering my lack of lean meat.

          • paulakiger

            I can see where that would pose a challenge and demand some creativity.

          • LOL! Paula is correct, I was talking about myself. But nice to see I’m rubbing off on your so much that you were able to not only make this article, but the entire comment section ALL ABOUT YOU!!

          • paulakiger

            Pops popcorn, sits back to watch from my awkward position here in the middle …………

          • You’re not alone Paula. I’m coming too. This promises to be a fun show (as always). Who do you think will win: The low carbs or low protein? :

          • paulakiger

            Ha ha ha — well — taking either side is fraught with challenges so I’ll just join you back here in the cheap seats and watch it all unfold! 🙂

          • In my defense, it’s how the sentence is written! And my editor’s note made it a much better blog post.

          • LOL!

  • The best or maybe the only way to have peace of mind while on holiday is to prepare your time off. You make such great points. I couldn’t possible relax if I’d suddenly remember about a work thing I did not delegate or told anyone about it.

    Last year I made the decision to make my time off mindful. There will be no sitting on the beach, sweating like a…(I am not going to say it). Instead there will be themed vacations. For each vacation I’ll choose a theme that will include by default some sort of personal and professional development. This could mean read more books, attend online or offline conferences, meeting online friends in offline.

    Welcome back Laura!