Work is Good, Skipping Vacation is Not

Vacations don’t need to be lengthy or expensive, but time-off from long work hours is necessary. Studies are showing that “Millennials” aren’t taking their paid time off. This trend may cause health problems down the line.

What’s with This Generation?

First of all, it’s a bit vague when trying to pinpoint which groups are in which age categories. According to the US Census Bureau, “Baby Boomers” were born somewhere between 1946 and 1964.

According to the census bureau, “Generation X” births began in 1965 but kept going even when the so-called “Gen Y” trend started around 1975. At the tail end of both “generations” began the more commonly recognized “Millennials” born in 1982 lasting until 2004.

It’s this group, the Millennials, that are slacking when it comes to resting. The approximate age of the sector is anywhere between 18 and 35 years old. They’ve also been referred to as “Echo Boomers” and “Digital Natives” (since they don’t know life without the Internet.)

No Rest for the Weary

Evidently, there’s an absurd practice at work called “vacation shaming.” This is an unspoken, judgmental edict placed on employees and managers. Many, especially these Millennials, feel pressured to forfeit their vacation days.

A recently published report based on findings from the Pew Research Center showed that 18-year-olds and up are becoming “work martyrs.” This group feels guilty taking time off. They believe it will leave the company and other workers (at their company) at a disadvantage while they’re away.

The workers are also concerned that they can be replaced easily. So not to place their own jobs in jeopardy, they work longer hours to show their dedication to the position. Because workers are forced to wear so many different hats these days (and take on so much responsibility), it’s no surprise there’s this “worried” mentality. Your Health is All You Have

This report is frightening in many ways. It’s basically pointing out that the common workplace puts work before the employee’s health. It is a sad state of affairs when the company culture silently bullies workers into forfeiting days needed off to recharge.

Work, Work, Work

Taking time-off from work has proven to increase productivity, worker morale, and reduce personal and environmental stress. Stress at work can lead to back-, neck-, and headaches. There’s also eye strain, stomach pain, and cranky moods. And when mistakes are being made, it can be a sign that it’s time to take a break. This can be a severe health hazard for an employee who drives, operates machinery, works with chemicals, etc.

There are laws and human resource personnel to keep the workplace safe—that includes protecting your right to time-off when contracted or deemed necessary. It’s honorable to do a job well done. It’s also honoring your body and mind when you rest.

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When Ego Gets in the Way

Deep Thoughts

Have you ever asked yourself, “Is this all there is?”  Existential questions like this are common. In a world where the standard is often materially based, losing sight of what means the most can be easy.

In a recent piece, Ryan Holiday may have said it best – “(w)hen we lack a connection to anything larger or bigger than us, it’s like a piece of our soul is gone.  Like we’ve detached ourselves from the traditions we hail from, whatever that happens to be…..Ego blocks us from the beauty and history of the world.  It stands in the way.”


When we become me-centric, it has a way of limiting our personal satisfaction.  Our productivity.  Our relationships with those around us.  It’s only when we embrace humility, meaning, those values which encourage others and leave a lasting, positive imprint on the world that we break free from the never-ending rat race.

ME and MORE Me

Our greatest contributions are often impacted by a connection to something larger than ourselves.  Creativity is regularly spurned on by an intentional change of pace or setting.  Walden secluded himself in the wilderness.  Teddy Roosevelt retreated to the vast expanse of our nation’s picturesque landscape while in office.

It’s true, the loudest voices, the greatest bravado, they acquire the attention they seek.  Eyeballs are drawn to such displays.  But this comes at a cost.  What we can’t see, feel, or hear is the emptiness that accompanies these individuals in the aftermath of trying to remain in the spotlight.  Loud and showy highs can be quickly replaced with corresponding lonely lows.

Less IS More

If you find yourself evaluating your life, your job, your relationships, taking an inventory of what you’re prioritizing and how your time is spent makes for a worthwhile activity.  In his recent book, Essentialism, author Greg McKeown outlines the case for the disciplined pursuit of less.  He suggests growing comfortable with saying ‘no’ and making the best of what you have to offer the priority.  In so doing, family, friends, and the things that matter have a way of naturally falling into place.

Take the time to identify how your life is playing out.  After all, we only have one shot at this thing.  On their death bed, no one is remembered for wishing they’d spent less time vacationing, more time at the office, or less time playing with their children.

What matters most to you?

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Green Workspaces: Benefits for Health and Productivity

A firm in New York City has designed its office to promote health, wellness, productivity, and employee happiness. Will this be the way of the future?

The First of Many More?

The company’s name is Primary and they pride themselves as being the first wellness-centered workspace. They’re promote green living and optimum health by providing yoga classes, ergonomic furniture, bike racks, and organic salads. Meditation is encouraged, acupuncture is offered, and there are even showers and changing rooms.

Of course, not every company or school can provide such an abundance of holistic benefits. But heading in that direction is a positive step. Hopefully, soon-gone will be the days of classrooms and offices having no natural light, drab walls, and too few opportunities for bodily movement.

Mental Benefits

It’s an extreme effort to attend to a task 100%. That’s why we become mentally exhausted. Focusing on something like a tree, a picture of a sailboat, or a photo of kittens doesn’t require effort. Images, which don’t require brain effort, actually let our brain rest. We regain our ability to focus on more difficult tasks. This is one argument for classrooms and offices to be functional green spaces.

According to research from the University of Illinois (Department of Landscape Architecture), students learn and perform better on exams if they have the accessibility to see greenery. And according to Urban Greening Research at the University of Washington, adult office workers report less illness and more enthusiasm for their job when there’s opportunity for access to green space or nature during the workday.

Restorative Environments

Results of these studies hope to encourage improved school and office design, as well as break-time spent outdoors. More windows, green walkways, and small parks can create a “nature” setting in an urban environment. Courtyards can be “greened-up” by painting benches, hanging flower terrariums, and even adding bonsai trees. Indoor plants work wonders, adding a calming effect, more oxygen, and removing toxins from the air.

Besides those elements, restoration can occur from practicing yoga, meditation, eating fresh foods, and being surrounding by others with a positive energy. It’s a great time to update your personal workspace. In fact, dropping a hint (or a copy of this article) to your boss may affect positive improvement in your workplace too.


Here’s How to Get Yourself Motivated – and Stay That Way

It happens to all of us. Some days we just can’t seem to find the motivation to get up and get going. Sometimes it’s even longer than a few days, and that’s okay! Here are some tips to kick it into gear, get motivated, and keep it going.


Set Small and Specific Goals


Keep it simple – unload the dishwasher, make your bed, finally get around to that laundry you’ve been putting off. Tasks that can be completed easily will give you a little motivation to push you in the right direction. Specificity is important as it gives you a clear definition of your goals, being able to quantify these will keep you motivated until you reach it.


Confidence is Key


Confidence is so important in motivating you to complete a mission. Did you step out of your comfort zone and take on a project you wouldn’t normally have done? Don’t get overwhelmed – focus on the confidence it took even to agree to start it in the first place! Or give yourself some words of encouragement. Here are a few to get you started.


You are Who You Surround Yourself with


Find support from others who are positive and have goals in mind for themselves. Research shows positivity increases productivity, which goes hand in hand with motivation. Their attitude will undoubtedly rub off on you, and you can support and push each other to achieve your aspirations. Hold each other accountable to ensure you are staying focused.


Do not waste your time with energy drainers – those people that make you feel more exhausted after spending time with them. This is moving backward not forwards.


Take Care of Yourself


Eat healthy, exercise, get proper sleep. All of these key aspects work to increase our overall productivity and performance. When we have a better sense of balance, the more productive we can be. This increased productivity will serve as motivation to keep performing at this level.


Focus on the Future, but Remember to Stay Present


Always keep your goals in front of you to feed into your motivation. To maintain this focus, there’s a few things you can do – like set smaller milestones towards reaching the goal in mind. Here’s some practical tips to maximize productivity in order to achieve anything you set your mind to.

However, if you always focus on the next thing, you can feel unfulfilled. It’s important to take in the little things, and take each move towards your goals as a stepping stone to your final destination. Using these little “wins” as fuel to the fire to reach your big aspirations.

Smartphones: Productivity Killers?

When interrupted at work, how long would you say it takes to return to a state of focused attention?  A moment or two?  10 minutes?  Try 23 minutes and 15 seconds!  If you’re skeptical, Gloria Mark, a professor at UC-Irvine, begs to differ.  Most people will take on additional, unrelated work tasks (like checking their smartphones) before getting back on track.  And before they realize it, where has the time gone?

Pros and Cons

For the many ways smartphones are designed to make life more convenient, new studies illuminate the downside to the devices. In fact, the very ability to quickly switch back and forth between various tasks negatively affects productivity.

One can hardly make their way through a job interview these days without being asked about multitasking.  It seems employers want people who can balance a variety of responsibilities at any given time.  The problem, however, lies with our inability to focus on a given task and devote the necessary energies to quality output.  According to Daniel Levitin, professor of behavioral neuroscience at McGill University, “(t)hat switching comes with a biological cost that ends up making us feel tired much more quickly than if we sustain attention on one thing.”

What’s more, the added techniques required to power through demanding stretches of work often come at a cost.  When we use, say, caffeine, to boost energy, the brain does not react positively.  As a substitute for rest, caffeine, or any other synthetic tactic just falls short.

The Up Side

Interestingly, taking 15-minute breaks every couple of hours leads to more productive work.  And it’s in how these breaks are made that maximum impact is achieved.  Surfing one’s various social media accounts yields less positive results than, say, taking a walk, reading, daydreaming, etc.  These activities, even in brief quarter hour spurts, are sustained and have a way of transporting the mind to a different, more restful place.

Now, there are certain activities where multitasking is okay.  Whenever you are doing something that doesn’t require active concentration (laundry for example), then reading a book or talking on the phone has virtually no undesirable consequences.

Whatever your profession, understanding how the mind works can be a valuable tool in being your very best.  The more distractions are eliminated, the greater the chance for productive and quality work to be the result.  Set aside some time and reflect on how your work practices impact your workday.  If you find that avoidable interruptions have taken over, set some boundaries and make the change!