First, a confession: I’m a workaholic.
If I am left to my own devices, I will happily work all day, every day, forever.
In fact, lodged somewhere in some horribly warped part of my brain is this ridiculous notion that not taking vacations, working on weekends, and skipping out on social time with my friends is somehow supposed to be a badge of honour.
If, after working a full week from Monday to Friday, I take a Saturday off work to catch up on laundry/ slow cook a roast/ get out and explore/ see friends, the same predictable thing always happens.
Whenever I take time off, I start having nightmares about Gary Vaynerchuk.
In one recurring nightmare, I’m catching up on the latest episode of The Walking Dead when Gary Vee jumps out of the television and says, “What the hell are you doing, man? Do you even realize that every minute of every day that you aren’t hustling, you ARE the walking dead???”
There’s another one where I’m out to dinner with my friends, we’re laughing, we’re drinking, we’re telling stories, and I’m just about to bite into my lamb korma when Gary suddenly materializes right next to me and starts asking me whether I think I’ve earned a night on the town. Starts talking about how Steve Jobs and Elon Musk would be pulling 70-hour workweeks, never seeing their families, falling asleep at their desks, and that if I’m not willing to do the same then that means I must be weak.
But my absolute favourite has to be the one where I suddenly fall out of the sky onto the snowy streets of London and am promptly visited by a black-robed figure, its face concealed under a hood.
And I humbly ask: “You are about to show me shadows of things that have not happened, but will happen in the time before us – is that so?”
And that’s when this Ghost of Business Yet to Come lifts the hood, and it’s freaking Gary.
“You gotta hustle, man! Stop walking around thinking the world owes you something and start proving the world how much of a game-changer you are!”
This can’t possibly be healthy.
For entrepreneurs, vacations are a rare treat – and while vacations are necessary and healthy, actually taking one can be a guilt-inducing misadventure in shoulda-woulda-couldas.
But as it turns out, delaying vacations is SUPER bad for you.
A number of years ago, CNN reported on a study where they looked at men who were at risk of coronary heart disease – and found that NOT taking an annual vacation increases your risk of dying from a heart attack by 32%.
The Japanese have a word for this – they call it karoshi, which translates as “death by overwork.”
Now, I get it – we’re all busy people, and it’s hard to take time off.
If you have a salaried full-time job, chances are you’re lucky if you get 3 weeks of vacation every year. If you’re an entrepreneur, you’re lucky to get 3 days.
But get this: Over in Europe, all workers have the legal right to a minimum of 20 PAID vacation days every single year. Probably because they have a totally different mindset about vacations. Perhaps we need to change the way we think about time off, for the sake of our own health.
Because it turns out…vacations don’t make us less productive.
Look at Greece. The average Greek citizen works 2,017 hours every year – more than any other European country. But are they any better off economically? Heck no.
In contrast, in Germany – the country with the strongest economy in the EU and quite possibly the world right now – workers average about 1,400 hours per year in the office. They work fewer hours than almost every country in Europe, and they get 30 paid vacation days every year.
So in other words: Taking fewer vacation days doesn’t make you more productive, and taking more vacation days doesn’t make you less productive. If anything, it’s the other way around.
There are so many good reasons to take a vacation.
Because if you don’t, you’re more likely to die of heart disease.
Because if you don’t, you’re at a higher risk of developing diabetes.
Because if you don’t, your blood pressure will skyrocket.
Because if you don’t, you won’t be able to do your best work.
But mostly because if you don’t, you’ll end up ruining your business’ most important tool – your mind.
Psychologists at places like Harvard and the University of California have studied this, and as it turns out, taking vacations is good for your brain.
People who take vacations experience a whole range of mental benefits, such as:
• Being more creative
• Having a better mood
• Being better able to memorize new things
• Being able to do higher-quality work
In fact, one study by Ernst & Young in 2006 found that every 10 hours of vacation time you take per year boosts your score on performance reviews by 8%.
That should be reason enough to unplug.
And as for that Ghost of Gary Vee that keeps haunting my dreams?
Well…you can’t hustle if you’ve worked yourself to death.