September 07 2022 at 06:00AM
Enjoy your vacations, increase your productivity!
“Summertime, and the livin’ is easy
Fish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high”
“Summertime”, in the voice of Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong was published in 1959, and it is an iconic song celebrating the relaxing summer feeling. This song was recorded as part of the soundtrack of the movie version of “Porgy and Bess”, an opera composed by George Gershwin that was first performed in 1935 [i]. Despite the irony in the lyrics, as the opera libretto tells a story of social conflict, the melody perfectly translates the peaceful mood of a hot summer day.
Project Management professionals are subject of huge pressure inside the organizations, and there has been plenty of reports of burnout of project leaders ([ii], [iii]). The risk of burnout is real and transversal to all professions. WHO has declared it has a disease in 2019 [iv]. Data[v] shows how burnout affects workers in European countries and what are the factors that most contribute to burnout. The reports indicate that the social context and the workplace leadership are the majors responsible for burnout.
Therefore, it is important to take time to enjoy and relax during the summer vacations, so that the productivity levels are high when returning to the office.[vi] In a world where we are easily connected to work by simply checking the e-mail on the cell phone in whatever place you go, you shall ask the question, if this is relevant during the time off. “How critical to the team it is that I know the status of the project today? How professional will I answer if I am on the beach enjoying the summer breeze? What is the effect of this constant anxiety during vacations on my capacity to rejuvenate after returning to the office?”
There is no right or wrong answer to each of these questions. But we need to ask them to ourselves and take some time for reflection. In some cases, there is no other option but to stay connected. But asking questions is important to be aware of the consequences. Establishing priorities is important during the day-to-day life of a Project Manager. Also, during the time off it is important to establish priorities and create discipline. If it is impossible to disconnect during the holidays, an alternative may be to have discipline in the way work duties are faced. Discipline can translate into turning off notifications on the cell phone or limiting the time to use the computer, having a specific daily schedule to do it. Solutions should be customized, case by case.
Vacations are a great opportunity to recharge and rejuvenate. We shall protect ourselves from situations that lead to burnout and take the actions that are under our control. We all need time to enjoy with the ones we hold dear. Time for our hobbies, to explore our creativity and to complete our personal projects. Offering these possibilities shall be faced as an obligation, more important than work, that should at least be offered during vacations. [viii]
Spending time in nature is a great form of relaxation. As recommended by physicians, it contributes to our mental and physical health [ii]. In the summer, enjoying time on the beach or in a forest is extremely relaxing. Receiving direct sunlight contributes to the production of vitamin D, crucial for calcium absorption. Besides, light exposure is related to the balance of the endocrinal system and contributes to sleep balance and improvement. If you want to know more about the health effects of spending time in nature, look at this paper published in Nature in 2019 where the authors analyze the relation between time spent in nature and the self-reported health.[iii]
Nature also offers opportunities to challenge ourselves. There are several sports that you can try in the summer, such as surfing, sailing, diving, flying in a balloon, hiking or canyoning, for example. But you do not need to be radical if you are not willing to. There are several beautiful places that you can go to by a short walk. Being immersed, in nature, on a beach, in a forest or on a prairie, can be enough to feel challenged and relaxed. Give yourself that time offline, you will thank yourself later. When returning to work, you can decide to implement new routines in your life, that will help you to keep balance. The routine to spend time in a natural environment, offline.
In the Winter, when overwhelmed by work, you will have memories of summertime when life was easy. Those memories can keep you healthy and productive throughout the year.
[i]Porgy and Bess by Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Porgy_and_Bess
[ii] Career Q&A: A Strategy for Confronting Burnout, by Lindsay Scott, March 2022, PMI https://www.pmi.org/learning/publications/pm-network/digital-exclusives/strategy-for-burnout
[iii] Power to the People: How businesses can cater to a new generation of employees, by Andrew Filev, August 2022, HR News, https://hrnews.co.uk/power-to-the-people-how-businesses-can-cater-to-a-new-generation-of-employees/
[iv] Burnout is about your workplace, not your people, by Jennifer Moss, December 2019, Harvard Business Review, https://hbr.org/2019/12/burnout-is-about-your-workplace-not-your-people
[v] The European Countries with the Highest Risk of Burnout, October 2020, Small Business Prices, https://smallbusinessprices.co.uk/european-employee-burnout/
[vi] Why Managers Should Encourage Employees to Use Vacation Time, by Norwich University Online October 20th, 2020, https://online.norwich.edu/academic-programs/resources/why-managers-should-encourage-employees-use-vacation-time
[vii] New Yorker Daily Cartoon: Monday, August 1st, David Sipress, August 2022, https://www.newyorker.com/cartoons/daily-cartoon/monday-august-1st-relaxation-vacation
[viii] Why Taking Vacation Time Could Save Your Life, Caroline Castrillon, May 23, 2021, Forbes,
[ix] Dr Amir Khan in Gardeners World, 2022, episode 3, BBC, https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p0bxk3b4
[x] White, M.P., Alcock, I., Grellier, J. et al. Spending at least 120 minutes a week in nature is associated with good health and wellbeing. Sci Rep 9, 7730 (2019). https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-44097-3