4 tips to get the most out of your summer vacation

Not only will you feel better, if you take time off, it might actually make you more productive, according to time management expert Brad Aeon, a PhD researcher from Concordia’s John Molson School of Business.

You'll feel better and it may even make you more productive

Don't check emails and take shorter vacations more often are among the ways to make the most out of your vacation, says Brad Aeon, a time management expert. (Verity Stevenson/CBC)

Whether or not you've already taken time off this summer, chances are you are already looking forward to your next vacation, and with good reason.

Not only will you feel better, if you take time off, you may actually become a better employee, according to time management expert Brad Aeon, PhD researcher at Concordia's John Molson School of Business.

"It makes us energetic. It recharges our batteries and when we return to work we have a lot more energy to expend on work, so it makes us more productive," Aeon told CBC Radio's All in a Weekend.

Break out of your routine

Travelling to new places, meeting new people and experiencing new things are all good ways to give your mind a break and boost creativity at the same time, Aeon explained.

"The mind needs a break, to think differently, to associate ideas differently," he said. "[People] don't have their best ideas at work, they have their best ideas when they're relaxed, and usually that happens when they're on vacation."

But even if travelling isn't in the cards, Aeon said you can still find ways to break out of your routine at home, on a "staycation"—whether it's trying out a new hobby or picking up a new book.

Opt for shorter, more frequent breaks

You may feel that a longer vacation is the best way to get away from it all, but Aeon argues that shorter, more frequent vacations are more beneficial, if you have the option.

"Surprisingly, the duration of the vacation does not really affect your well-being," he said, because the "afterglow" of a vacation tends to fade out after a few days, once you're back, no matter how long you've been gone.

Peggys Cove in Nova Scotia is one of Canada's top tourist spots. (Cassie Williams/CBC)
Spreading out your vacation time throughout the year allows you to recharge more often, and gives you something to look forward to, he said, even if it's just taking a long weekend.
Brad Aeon, time management expert, says there's a perception in North America that taking vacation means a person is not dedicated to their job, when in reality, it will likely make them a more productive employee. (

Don't check emails​

If you're poolside right now, reading this on your phone or tablet, resist the temptation to open up your email app while you're at it.

According to Aeon, to get the most out of a vacation, you need to establish a "psychological detachment" from work.

French lawmakers passed a "right to disconnect" bill last year, enshrining the right of employees to ignore after-work emails. A similar law was proposed at New York City council in March.

Aeon shared the example of German auto manufacturer Daimler, which offers an optional employees an optional program to automatically delete incoming emails while they are on vacation, while notifying the senders. That way, employees aren't tempted to check in while they're away and won't return to an overflowing inbox.

Still, Aeon said there is a mentality in North America that needs shifting. Some people don't disconnect, or don't take vacation at all, because they feel pressure to show they are a dedicated employee, he said.

"Very often, not going on vacation is not a personal decision. It's a felt pressure that originates from society, from companies, from the corporate world," he said.

Some companies are starting to prioritize giving employees time off, not only for their workers' well-being, but because it's good business, he said.

"There's more and more research that shows, if you're over-worked, you're not going to be productive," he said. "If you give your employees more free time...they're probably going to do twice the work in less time."

Don't overthink it

For you etymology buffs out there: keep in mind the word vacation comes from the Latin root vacāre, which means to be unoccupied, or free.

"If you have a very strict schedule while on vacation, that usually feels like work," said Aeon. "On the other hand, if you don't plan your vacation at all, you open yourself up to all sorts of unexpected events."

Your vacation doesn't need to be elaborate or far from home, according to Brad Aeon, time management expert. (Verity Stevenson/CBC)

Aeon suggested making a list of a handful of ideas for things you'd like to do, or places you'd like to visit on a given day of your vacation, but not setting a strict time frame for any one activity.

Admittedly, this can be difficult if you're travelling to popular tourist attractions, where visits often must be scheduled in advance, but Aeon he said we should resist the temptation to schedule our whole vacation that way.

"Leave it loose and unstructured, so that at least you know what you could do, without really imposing a lot of time pressure on yourself," he said.