By Rebecca Coates Nee
August 27th, 2001
Brokaw did it. Bush did it. Even Regis took a short one this
Still, nothing seems to get broadcasters more riled up than
an extended vacation. The break that's supposed to recharge
our batteries and revive our weary spirits seems to be getting
a bad rap.
In many newsrooms, vacations - especially those that last
more than a week - are viewed with a combination of envy,
disgust and speculation about what the absent employee is
really doing and whether they're really coming back.
Our Protestant news work ethic basically goes like this: One
day of rest is good for the soul, but more than two days off
means we're not team players. The standard two-week vacation
policy in the U.S. is downright skimpy when compared to other
countries. Europeans average four weeks off a year - in Germany,
some employees get up to 15 weeks away!
With all that pressure on us to make the most of our short
R & R, it's no wonder we seldom return with the vim and vigor
we hoped to discover. Instead, most folks come back wanting
another week off to recover from the one they just had.
Why? Vacations don't work because the problem gets off the
plane, boat or hot air balloon with us. When people are in
the habit of buzzing around, meeting deadlines and feeding
off adrenaline, slowing down is uncomfortable in any setting.
While I was still recovering from PTSD (post television stress
disorder), my vacations were as tedious a Gary Condit stake
I began every day by back-timing to our dinner reservation.
I would have one hour to work out, 35 minutes to shower, 25
minutes to eat, two hours to HAVE FUN, etc. The skills I developed
as a reporter helped me investigate the best places to stay
and eat, but they taught me nothing about the lost art of
It didn't take long for my mentor coach to diagnose my problem:
I was a compulsive planner. I blame the addiction on twelve
years of daily deadlines and a father with a military background.
My coach's solution: go one week without planning.
I could get up and decide what I was going to accomplish that
day - but I couldn't plan for the next day or the day after
Enduring that week was a struggle, but it showed me how much
time I wasted anticipating the future. That meant very little
of me was left to enjoy or appreciate the present.
So how can you get more out of your much-needed vacations?
First, don't wait until you're having a meltdown to take one.
Also, try to build a mini vacation into each day by following
a relaxing routine you enjoy.
Listen to some entertaining music, go for a walk, take a five
minute time out when everyone around you is losing their heads.
Stick one of those little pink umbrellas in your espresso.
Living a more balanced life throughout the year will help
your vacation become a time of leisure, not recovery.