The Hamilton-inspired reason you need to take a vacation
More than 40 percent of Americans don’t take the vacation days they’ve accrued. Founding Father Alexander Hamilton was among them, with catastrophic consequences we can learn from today.
In the smash-hit musical he composed about Hamilton’s life, Lin-Manuel Miranda suggests that things might have gone differently for the perpetually exhausted treasury secretary had he heeded his wife’s plea to take a family vacation in the summer of 1791.
Instead, Hamilton declined to go to New York with his wife, saying he was too busy with work. It was a decision that led to a disastrous affair and perhaps even that deadly duel with Aaron Burr, Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington wrote after an interview with Miranda.
“Like other burnout aficionados, Hamilton was selling himself short. Contrary to all our collective delusions, he was successful not because of his overwork and burnout, but in spite of them. And perhaps if he’d listened to Eliza’s advice to take a break, he’d have had more time to build the nation he was so devoted to,” Huffington wrote.
Miranda himself is proof of the regenerative powers of taking time off. He got the idea for “Hamilton” when he was reading Ron Chernow’s biography of Hamilton — while on vacation in Mexico in 2008.
“The moment my brain got a moment’s rest, ‘Hamilton’ walked into it,” Miranda told Huffington.
This kind of experience was confirmed by Saint Louis University psychologist Matthew J. Grawitch on NPR’s Morning Edition. “When workers come back from vacation, they have more energy, they tend to be more replenished and feel more engaged in their work,” Grawitch told NPR reporter Patti Neighmond.
This month in Real Simple magazine, sociologist Christine Carter explains why: “When you’re on vacation, the part of your brain responsible for creative insight comes alive and draws connections between things it didn’t previously connect. That’s why people often have aha moments when they return to work,” she wrote.
First, you have to do no work: “None. Zip. Nada.”
“While you might be able to work from your vacation, you won’t reap the many benefits of a vacation if you do so,” Carter says.
Second, you need to plan the right kind of vacation, one that’s more about nourishing you and your family than returning with photos that look good on Facebook, and one that has plenty of downtime.
And finally, take steps to ensure your re-entry into work or family life isn’t marred by stressful return travel or a day packed with appointments and meetings. “Give yourself time to get back into the swing of things,” Carter advises.
If you know all the benefits of a vacation, but still find it difficult to get away with your family, there’s an easy first step: Make a plan.
According to the website Project: Time Off, 69 percent of people who plan their vacations take a week or more of vacation at one time; only 46 percent of people who haphazardly take time off take that amount of time.