The Pomodoro Vacation Technique

How getting the most out of your vacation benefits your work.

Vacation for Entrepreneurs
Even Home Business Owners Need R&R. Caiaimage/Paul Bradbury | Getty Images

It’s no secret: in America, we have created a culture of workaholics.

There are many statistics to verify this trend. Take vacation time, for example. According to one Glassdoor survey, only 25% of Americans take advantage of their full vacation time. That leaves 75% of Americans who forfeit at least some of their vacation days. It’s an unavoidable truth that we’ve become addicted to the work we do in the office.

The statistics are grimmer for entrepreneurs. A 2014 survey by OnDeck found that 61% of small business owners take only five days off each year. Fifty-three percent of these business owners won’t take a vacation during their business’s first 10 years. And of the small percentage that actually take vacation, only 15% disconnect entirely while they are away.

Many home business owners might not see any problem in not taking a break thinking, “I’m doing whatever it takes to get my business off the ground!” What many don’t realize, though, is that overworking can often lead to lower quality of work, slower output, and diminished long-term returns, not to mention the potential health risks and strains on one’s personal life workaholism can cause. Indeed, there are so many benefits to being pro-vacation, but many business owners seem to ignore the long-term advantages and listen to short-term fears instead.

Techniques and philosophies to improve one’s productivity while on the job are commonplace these days. One of the most talked about alternative productivity philosophies is the Pomodoro Technique, a time management method developed in the 1980s which emphasize without interrupting one’s work schedule with frequent, short breaks.

Why not think of these philosophies on a broader scale and apply them to one’s vacation time? Your vacation and work times are more intertwined than you might think, so it’s crucial to consider how to balance the two.

Take Shorter, More Frequent Vacations

Home business owners have a lot of freedom. They can set their own schedules, work from their ideal environments, and in the end, the only person a home business owner must answer to is herself. However, these freedoms also come with additional pressure to succeed, since almost half of small businesses fail in the first four or five years.

These pressures and fears usually serve to hurt vacation prospects for small business owners, but like any other employee or worker, they need R&R too. Luckily, you don’t have to take an annual two-week vacation to reap the benefits of vacation time.

Consider this analogy regarding your vacation time. Likening time off to a regular sleep schedule, Dr. Jessica de Bloom advocates regular recovery in the form of shorter, more frequent vacations for employees. If you’ve had a long week and are looking forward to a nice, restful weekend, one of the worst things you can do for yourself is get too much sleep.

Sleeping in too late can make you more tired than you were during the busy week. Instead, try to establish a regular pattern of consistent eight-hour sleep.

Applying the too-much-sleep analogy, think of your vacation time in this way: Maybe taking all fifteen vacation days at once isn’t such a great idea. You might come back feeling unmotivated to work or find you’ve forgotten what you had been working on before you left. Instead, consider spreading out your vacation days over the course of a few long weekends.

The Pomodoro Technique divides up one’s daily schedule into work and break segments. You decide on a task, work on it for twenty-five minutes, and then take a three- to five-minute break. After you’ve repeated this cycle four times, you take a longer break of fifteen to thirty minutes.

Studies have found that this strategy works very well for increasing productivity. Why not try it out on your vacation policy? Take a few long weekends here and there, and then reward yourself after a nice long period of work with a longer vacation.

Cut Off from the Office Completely

Whether you are taking a long weekend or an entire week off, you will not reap the benefits of vacation time if you are constantly checking in on your shipping orders, emailing investors, or calling clients.

Plan activities that force you to cut off from work completely, such as spending time outside. Besides the tranquility of surrounding yourself with nature, studies show that time outside boosts creative reasoning skills. So take a hike, go camping, or try white water rafting - just leave your phone behind.

Plan ahead by talking with a colleague or partner you trust to make decisions while you are away. If you’re a solo entrepreneur, reach out to a trusted family member or friend, or hire virtual support to maintain your business while you’re away. By having a contingency plan, you can enjoy a stress-free vacation.

It can also help to send a memo out to other businesses you work with that details the days you will be gone and any information they might need during that time, such as upcoming deadlines and the location of important forms.

The Pomodoro Technique stresses the importance of shutting down your work mind when you take a break, even a short one. Emma Seppala recommends making the most of the minibreaks by actively unplugging from work on nights and weekends. This way you won’t be distracted while you’re working on thoughts of the end of the day. Why not treat your vacation time the same way?

Get Sunburnt, Not Burnt Out, on a Beach

A crucial aspect of the Pomodoro Technique is the notion that work and leisure are closely intertwined: how you spend your work time affects how you enjoy your vacation and vice versa. The key is to get the most out of both. Don’t look at work as the way you earn your vacation and don’t look at your vacation as time away from your job. Do your job well while you’re working so that worries and anxieties from the job don’t bleed into your leisure time. Likewise, put away your phone and close your email while you’re on vacation, so you can come back to work fully refreshed, even excited, to get back to work.

The Pomodoro Technique is a proven strategy for improving one’s productivity. Short breaks will keep you focused on your tasks at hand and will prevent burnout from overworking. Why not apply this same strategy to your vacation time? Maximize both work and leisure and you’ll find yourself more productive on the job and feel more relaxed while on vacation.