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Commentary > Everyday Money
Why don't you take a 2-week vacation?
It's not necessarily because your boss is standing in your way.
June 7, 2004: 1:07 PM EDT
By Jeanne Sahadi, CNN/Money senior writer

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) On the Friday before Memorial Day, a source for a story I was working on gave me permission to call her in the Caribbean. Purportedly, she was there enjoying a vacation.

I really appreciated her helping me out. But it reminded me that as a people we are, on balance, nuts.

Not lock-'em-up-certifiable maybe. Just so driven that we can't say no to work ever, even when we pay thousands of dollars to drink Painkillers and watch turquoise waters lap against silky white beaches.

The definition of vacation relative to work has become, it seems, more flexible than a yogi. Sure, you could blame it on the advent of technologies that let you "stay in touch" 24/7. But that's a little like saying, "Guns kill people."

Truth is, many of us aren't great about setting boundaries between work and the rest of life.

And often there's a sense of guilt or reluctance about taking vacation, or at least taking too much of it at once.

How else to explain the fact that even when we have an ample number of vacation days, only a minority of us take a full two weeks off at a time?

According to a recent survey by the American Management Association, only 32 percent of managers surveyed said they'd take 6 to 10 days off consecutively this summer. More than half (58 percent) said they wouldn't take off more than 5 days consecutively.

Click here to take our vacation poll

What's more, many of those who do take two weeks off won't really get away from it all.

Twenty-four percent of all managers surveyed said they contact the office daily when they're on vacation. Another 28 percent said they check in every two to three days.

Why the hesitation to cut the chord for a mere 10 work days? Here are just a few possible reasons. Pick your poison.

You don't want to risk coworker backlash. "Seinfeld" may be off the air, but you still hear that sneering tone of "Hel-loohh, Nooooooo-man" when your coworkers welcome back a colleague (a.k.a. "slacker") from a vacation during which they scrambled to do his work and theirs.

You're indispensable. Okay, but you're no good to anyone when you're exhausted, making poorly thought-out decisions and taking twice as long to do everyday tasks.

Having too much work is a reality for a lot of people. But consider this: there will always be work to do. As Robinson put it, when you say you don't have time for vacation, it's like saying, "I don't have time to live."

You're afraid you're not indispensable. Maybe taking two weeks at once is threatening because you don't want to come back to find everything went just fine without you.

A lack of crises in your absence can be to your credit -- you plan well -- and a testament to your colleagues' abilities. Do you really want to work with idiots?

If that doesn't make you feel better, recall the words of Charles de Gaulle: "The graveyards are full of indispensable men."

You fear losing your job. There are lots of ways to lose a job. Taking vacation days granted by company policy usually isn't one of them.

You are your work. There is an emphasis on defining the self through labor in this culture, Robinson said. So taking time off may make you feel agitated or its depressed cousin, worthless.

Your work is a refuge. If you have an unhappy personal life or not much of one at all, the office may be your haven.

You lack leisure skills. A lot of our free time is spent watching television, rather than developing interests unrelated to our jobs.

You don't have the money. Okay, so don't book a trip.

Whatever your reasons, at the very least, you might view a real two-week vacation as a good career move. (Although, it also can be very good for your life as well.)

"Free time is the engine of ingenuity, creativity and innovation," Robinson said.

It also will give you much-needed perspective, said Shannon Waller, an entrepreneurial coach and program designer at the Strategic Coach, a consulting firm.

Those are big payoffs for everyone, but particularly those running their own businesses or heading up big projects or divisions. That's because you're always on the hook for improving profits and coming up with new, better or more efficient ways to do things.

Taking off one week, to say nothing of two, can be hard. But Waller encourages the business owners she works with to do so anyway.

Clients, if you give them advance notice, will respect you for having control of your time, she said. And you'll have more respect for those you work with.

"When you get tired, everyone else gets stupid," Waller said. "But the truth is you're just tired."

Jeanne Sahadi writes about personal finance for CNN/Money. She also appears regularly on CNNfn's "Your Money," which airs weeknights at 5 p.m. ET. You can e-mail her at  Top of page

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