There you are, sitting in your office, crunching through some dreary piece of work you absolutely have to get done today or else the company will fail and you’ll all lose your jobs and your children will starve, and as you wander the streets in desperation, (you and your family) you’ll be attacked by hordes of locusts and your bones picked clean and then the civilization in which you are an integral cog will vanish into the dust of history, so better finish that report. Or whatever it is you’re working on.
You look out the window and it’s a lovely summer day. There’s people out there having fun! What the…?! There’s women out there in sundresses and sandals, walking around eating ice cream and laughing. And there’s guys out there in tank tops and shorts, lolling around on lawn chairs, drinking beers and grilling sausages. Mmm… grilled bratwurst… That would taste so good right now. A nice cold beer. Yeah, that’s it. That’s the ticket. You just sit there and stare longingly out the window, thinking happy thoughts about women in sundresses and guys on lawn chairs and–
“Hey, how’s that project we’re working coming along?”
You snap out of your reverie.
“Oh, yeah, that,” you say to your co-worker. “Just working on it now. Should be done with it pretty soon.”
“Good, because I’m gonna need your part of it by tomorrow morning,” your co-worker says. “Because if you don’t turn your part of it in by tomorrow morning the company will fail and we’ll all lose our jobs and our children will starve, and as we wander the streets in desperation (you, me and all of our families) we’ll be attacked by hordes of locusts and our bones picked clean and then the civilization we are an integral cog in will vanish into the dust of history. So I guess what I’m saying is if you need to work late…”
“No problem,” you say. “I’ll make sure you get it by the morning.”
Your co-worker moves on and you go back to day-dreaming and staring out the window and feeling, well, just sad and unproductive.
It’s summer now. It’s hard to concentrate and sometimes hard to get work done. If you were to Google ‘how to stay productive during the summer’ you’ll find any number of articles with helpful tips on how you can stay as productive in the summer as you were last winter when you came into work despite the blizzard and still managed to get a full eight hours of concentrated work in.
I don’t have eight tips. Or ten. Or even five.
I have one tip: take your vacation.
Americans work too many hours. Studies published on the economics website FRED showed that Americans work an average of 1,700 hours per year. Compare that with the French (who, for some reason, are epitomized by us as the height of a leisurely approach to life), who work less than 1,500 hours per year. Which works out to way more than a month less per year than us.
Well, that’s the French, you say. Now how about the Germans? There’s a hard-working, rich and successful nation. They must be working way more than us, right? Nope. Germans work even less than the French! The hard-working Germans work 1,400 hours per year, which means they are working nearly two months less per year than us.
Yet the last time I checked, the Germans still somehow managed to be driving around in BMWs, drinking excellent beer and walking on the beach in exceptionally sensible shoes and high quality black socks.
So, this summer, take your vacation. You don’t even have to go anywhere. Turn off the smartphone, set up an automated response to your email saying you are going to be out of the office for the next two weeks, and relax. Stay up too late. Sleep in. Take a nap. Eat the wrong foods. Go dancing in a smoky, crowded blues bar and not worry that you’re gonna be a wreck tomorrow. And don’t wear anything that was dry cleaned.
It will do your body and soul good. You’ll come back to work feeling refreshed and ready to take on another year.
Look, God created the entire universe and then took a day off.
So you too can take a couple of weeks off to sit in a lawn chair with your bare feet in your kids’ wading pool, a beer in your hand and bask in the aroma of bratwurst.