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What you need to know for 08/18/2017

Foss: Take a vacation this summer

Foss: Take a vacation this summer

The important thing is the break from daily routine
Foss: Take a vacation this summer
Photographer: Shutterstock

I make a habit of using up all my vacation time. 

I used up all my vacation time last year. 

I plan to use up all my vacation time this year. 

This puts me in the minority of New Yorkers, according to a recently released study from Project: Time Off, an organization that encourages people to take more vacations. 

The study found that in 2016, 54 percent of Empire State workers left unused vacation time on the table. 

I'm acquainted with people like this. 

They often claim they're too busy to take all their vacation time, or that they've accumulated so much time off that it's impossible to use it all up. Sometimes they fret about leaving their work, or about the impact their absence will have on colleagues. 

These are all legitimate reasons for not taking vacations, but the fact that so many people feel they can't use all their vacation time is difficult to fathom. The thought of letting even one vacation day go to waste makes me feel sad and weary. 

Don't get me wrong - I enjoy my work. 

But I don't think I'd enjoy it nearly as much if I didn't occasionally get a break from it. 

Project: Time Off shares this philosophy. 

"Across America, vacation has become the unintended victim of a 24/7 work culture, but there are specific parts of the country living on the edge of burnout where employees particularly need to take time off," said Project: Time Off senior director Katie Denis, who authored the unused vacation report. "The states and cities that have the dubious honor of being at the top of the unused vacation list would do well to realize that employees who take time off are happier, healthier and more productive."  

Shockingly, New York is not at the top of Project: Time Off's unused-vacation list. 

Instead, it's right in the middle of the pack, at number 25. 

The state that leads the country in unused vacation is Idaho, where 78 percent of workers reported leaving some vacation time on the table. I don't know what accounts for this, but I think it's safe to say that people in Idaho could stand to take a little more time off. 

The flip side of Idaho is Maine. 

According to the study, 38 percent of Mainers reported leaving vacation time on the table in 2016, a lower percentage than in any other state. Frankly, I wouldn't expect anything less from a state that calls itself Vacationland - in my mind, an indication that Maine has its priorities in order. 

Not everyone can afford to take a big, expensive vacation, but vacations needn't be big nor expensive. 

I'm no fan of the term staycation - OK, I loathe it - but the concept does have some merit. 

You don't actually have to go very far, or spend all that much money, to untether yourself from your job, relax, and do things you wouldn't ordinarily do before you're at work. 

The important thing is the break from the daily routine, and the freedom to set your own schedule and focus on your own interests.

Taking vacations reduces stress and anxiety. It's also part of living a meaningful life. To me, unused vacation time represents missed opportunities - the interesting things people might have done with that time, had they chosen to take it. 

So do yourself a favor and take a vacation this summer. 

And if you get to the end of the summer, and you still have some vacation time left, take another one. 

Reach Gazette columnist Sara Foss at sfoss@dailygazette.net. Opinions expressed here are her own and not necessarily the newspaper's.

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