Here’s Why You Hate Going On Vacation

I sat in my car this morning for at least ten minutes and stared at my uncut lawn. It’s not horrendous, Jumanji-level bad, but in a couple days I’ll be unable to find my front door without one of those massive blades to slice a walkway to the main entry of my house.

I stared at the grass and tried to find the hour it’s going to take to cut the front and back, edge it all, and blow the clippings into my neighbor’s yard. I’m short on time because the family leaves for vacation on Friday and between work, pre-school graduation and every other time-sucking activity, there’s just no time to cut the fucking grass. GET MY BLADE!

In those moments, I was really dreading the pending vacation. Not the actual act of being on vacation but every little errands and loose end that goes into planning and going on a trip.

It turns out I’m not alone. Countless people dread vacation. The reason? A term coined by two researchers called construal level theory. Construal level theory is the idea that the more distant in the future an event , the more abstractly a person thinks about it.

Here’s an explanation from Harvard Business Review.

“Abstractness refers to the level of detail that is captured in your thoughts about the object or event. When a vacation is far off, you focus primarily on general characteristics, such as “This vacation will be so much fun,” “I can’t wait to sit on the beach and relax,” or “I love visiting new countries.” At a distance, most of your thoughts are focused on these desirable aspects of the trip.

As the vacation gets closer, your thoughts become more specific. All of the details that are required for you to go on the trip come into view. You think about getting your passport renewed or reserving space on an excursion. You also start thinking about how to structure your work so that you can get away. You consider meetings you will miss, events that need to be rescheduled, and responsibilities that need to be shifted to someone else.

When you contemplate the number of changes that have to made to accommodate your vacation, you begin to wonder why you ever agreed to take the trip at all.”

[nods his head] Exactly.

So how does a person reduce the stress before vacation? Here are a couple tips that work with my family.

How To Stop Dreading Vacation

#1 — Keep a master list

Write down EVERYTHING on the list. I don’t care if it’s a physical piece of paper or an Excel spreadsheet. Just one place that lists everything that needs to be done, everything that must be packed, everyone that must be notified and anything that’s been on your mind as “I know I’m going to forget.”

#2 — Stop using the word “forget”

This isn’t just a tip for vacationing but also for life. Stop using the word forget when trying to remember something. Don’t say “let’s not forget to leave food out for the cat” because the only word your mind will hear is forget. Instead, say, “let’s remember to leave food out for the cat so he doesn’t use our shoes as a makeshift shitbox.”

#3 — Delegate

Don’t try to do everything. Get help. Ask kids to help out for god damn once, ask parents for help, neighbors, coworkers, anyone will to do something small in the name of eventual fun (for you). For example, if I just toss the kid next door a couple bucks, he can mow my lawn.

#4 — Realize Not Everything Will Go Right

You can’t plan everything on your trip. List or no list you’ll be slightly unprepared. Vacation is still life and life throws curveballs. Curveball is a nice way of saying “a week of rain.” Just go with the flow. No vacation is every perfect.

It feels a little better to know I’m not alone in my dread. Actually, I don’t even think I’m alone on this front lawn. WHO’S OUT THERE!?!? I’VE GOT A GIANT BLADE AND I’M NOT AFRAID TO USE IT!

[via Harvard Business Review]

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