Most of us Americans love to work. Or perhaps we’re afraid not to. A 2010 survey indicated that the average American accrues 18 vacation days and uses only 16. The average French worker takes more than twice the vacation time. Okay, what goes through your mind when you read that statistic?


To some, the difference between American and European workers is made clear through this little statistic of who works more.  We’re productive. They’re lazy.  The truth is, it might say the opposite. Europeans understand that breaks improve workplace efficiency. We mistakenly believe that more hours will always increase output, while ignoring the clear evidence: The secret to being an effective worker is not working too hard. Really. I’m not kidding.

Back in the 1920’s, Henry Ford discovered that productivity returns increased in his automobile factory when he reduced the workweek from six days to five, and 48 hours to 40. Ford said, “We know from our experience in changing from six to five days and back again that we can get at least as great production in five days as we can in six.” Ford’s insight 90 years ago is part of a long tradition of productivity-obsessed Americans.

WorkVacationNumerous studies have shown that productivity increases when we take breaks throughout our day and when we take vacations. Over 25 years ago, Pastor Rick Warren challenged me to “divert daily, withdraw weekly and abandon annually.”  Small breaks improve concentration.  Long breaks replenish job performance.

Clinical Psychologist Francine Lederer wrote, “The impact that taking a vacation has on one’s mental health is profound…most people have better life perspective and are more motivated to achieve their goals after a vacation, even if it is a 24-hour time-out.”

Work2The bottom line is, breaks are better for our brains than overtime. Where you get your break — from a half hour doing social media while having lunch, a day in the park, or a week on vacation with your family — doesn’t matter so much as that you get it.

I’m going on vacation this week. We’ll be spending a couple days in Jacksonville with our daughter and son in-love, helping them set up cribs, changing tables and more to get ready for their soon-to-be-born twins. And then we’ll be driving to Ohio to reconnect with my wife’s 92 year old father and her siblings at a bed and breakfast in the heart of Amish country.

Maybe I can learn to slow down from the Amish.  Since we will be having two different meals with Amish neighbors, I think I’ll ask how they manage to get so much done?  I’ll report what I find out on a later blog — of course, after I get back!


QUESTION: Are you planning to take a vacation this summer? Do you mind sharing about it?


10 responses to Work Less–Get More Done

  1. Marilyn on June 29, 2013 at 3:34 PM Reply

    Spent two weeks in Cabo San Lucas; son, Mark, joined us for a week. Was a great get-away we do twice a year. Enjoy your time away.

    • Dennis Gingerich on June 29, 2013 at 5:54 PM Reply

      I’m glad you could spend some time with your son and family!

  2. Lillian Bradley on June 25, 2013 at 5:46 PM Reply

    I just retired so right now I feel like I am on vacation. But not really, as I have so many projects to do. I am going North by the middle of July or later (depending on my health) I agree everyone should get away to get a different prospect of their surroundings.You will have a wonderful source to show you how to slow down visiting the Amish.So happpy for your family to have twins. Best wished for you and Linda.

    • Dennis Gingerich on June 29, 2013 at 5:53 PM Reply

      Thank you for sharing Lillian! And congratulations on your retirement.

  3. Laurie on June 20, 2013 at 8:56 AM Reply

    Just heading back from a nice trip to Alabama visiting family. We were unplugged for the most part and did lots of fun things together. It was a wonderful break and we feel recharged. The kids even played some board games at night.

  4. Janet on June 18, 2013 at 9:33 AM Reply

    Yes , We are just crossing the bridge in August to Sanibel with my daughters family for two weeks..You don’t have to go far to be on vacation…We can’t wait..

    • Dennis Gingerich on June 29, 2013 at 5:55 PM Reply

      Sanibel’s a wonderful place to feel like you are in a different world!

  5. Christine McDade on June 18, 2013 at 6:50 AM Reply

    Your message spoke to me as I have just returned from a vacation that was not relaxing. Reminded of work through emails daily, driving alone long distance and the constant running to events to keep my kids busy did not give me a break. I will make better choices for my next getaway. Thanks.

    • Dennis Gingerich on June 29, 2013 at 5:56 PM Reply

      Thanks for sharing Christine! I’m glad you became aware of the need to unplug more the next time you are away. Hope you’ll be able to do that soon!

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