In the United States we tend to use a lot less vacation days than people in other countries do, and we might be hurting our productivity levels, despite working more. Research has shown over and over that taking breaks from work, whether they are short or long, can actually make us perform better when we are working. So what are we waiting for?

What we should really be doing is working on maximizing our productivity, not blindly working at full force, because it really doesn’t help us in the long term. Some studies have shown that people who work with short bursts of activity mixed with deliberate breaks are way more productive than people who put in a lot of overtime on certain days which can lead to some lag in the days that follow, similar to how overindulging on alcohol can lead to a hangover.

Other studies have found that taking breaks allows people to remain focused on tasks without losing the quality of their focus.

Henry Ford was a pioneer in this concept in the 1920’s, figuring out that he could get his factory workers to be more productive if they only worked five days instead of six.

“We know from our experience in changing from six to five days and back again that we can get at least as great production in five days as we can in six. Just as the eight hour day opened our way to prosperity, so the five day week will open our way to a still greater prosperity.”

The same idea can be used to look at productivity of a work year when adequate vacation time is used.

Here’s what Francine Lederer a¬†clinical psychologist in Los Angeles has to say about it.

“The impact that taking a vacation has on one’s mental health is profound. Most people have better life perspective and are more motivated to achieve their goals after a vacation, even if it is a 24-hour time-out.”

It’s basically doctor’s orders. If you haven’t taken a vacation lately maybe it’s time you start planning.

Vacations can also be seen as good for your health, because even a weekend getaway can start to reduce the levels of stress in the body and lower your blood pressure. Women who take at least two vacations each year are less likely to get heart disease, and some studies have found that people who regularly take vacations have less depression and just report being happier in general. Sometimes we just need a break from our daily grind to refresh and even appreciate what we do have going on in our daily lives. After all, we want to feel like we’re working for a reason besides paying the bills, and traveling can be a pretty great motivator.

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