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Preventing Your Own Burnout Is Part Of Your Job

Engineers and designers are especially susceptible to all-night workfests, but one startup founder has little pity for those who run themselves ragged.

As year-end holiday vacations come to a close, you might be feeling guilty about the week or two you spent away from your work. If you do, then stop it right now, writes Seth Bannon, founder and CEO of fundraising and volunteer platform Amicus. Rest is a natural part of any training cycle, and that includes difficult periods of work, too.

Professional runners take long breaks between marathons. They make no excuses for this, and no one judges them for it, because everyone knows that rest and recuperation is an essential part of being a pro athlete.

It's not that too few people take vacations; we all disappear from the office now and again. It's the excuses for being gone that peeve Bannon.

It’s time we stopped making excuses for rest and relaxation. Doing so is not only bad for you, but sends the wrong message to the rest of your team. So next time you’re planning a vacation, announce it with pride.

If you don't, Bannon says, then feel guilty at your own peril. Taking vacation is just another responsibility implicit in your job, and if you're not doing it, then you're failing to meet one of your responsibilities.

“Preventing burnout is part of your job. Staying well rested is part of your job. Sleep and exercise help, but occasional extended breaks are essential too, and their benefits on creativity, productivity, and happiness are well documented.”

According to the Mayo Clinic, job burnout can seriously damage your productivity and well-being, and sometimes a vacation is precisely what you need to prevent it from happening. Don’t have any vacation days? The Clinic recommends regular exercise, and working with your supervisor to manage your stressors and discuss possible changes to your workflow.

Freelancers might find vacation time more challenging than most. For the self-employed, no work equals no pay, plain and simple, although some freelancers have figured out how to hack their hourly rates. Not everyone can afford to get away from it all, but there are a number of options recommended by Freelance Folder. In short: Plan ahead, save a bit, inform your clients, and scale back as much as you can.

As beneficial as breaks may be, the post-vacation slump is a real thing. It might even lead you to question whether or not vacations are worthwhile--but don’t let that dissuade you. In a column forForbes, analyst Daniel Freedman writes about the productivity dip we suffer post-vacation, comparing it to the “summer learning loss” students experience in the gap between school years.

While it doesn’t render the numerous benefits of time off as moot, there are things we can do to minimize what Freedman calls “vacation learning loss,” like reserving the evening before returning to work for relaxing and re-adjusting in lieu of travel. We’ve also covered several strategies for how to hit the ground running after a vacation.

Just make sure you don't apologize for your vacation. You're just doing your job, after all.