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Balancing act: Pack your bags and take a vacation

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Today, I'd like to offer some advice to all the cubicle-dwellers out there — and this time it has nothing to do with 401(k)s or IRAs or estate planning.

Quite simply, my advice is this: TAKE A VACATION!

As I write this, I'm sitting in a beach house on Galveston Island, Texas, gazing out the window at the waves crashing on the beach, courtesy of my in-laws (thanks, Ray and Kathy!). We're here for a family reunion of sorts, and the setting is magnificent.

But by the time you read this, I will be nearing the end of an epic car journey with my wife and four children.

That's right, we drove here. But first, we drove to South Dakota to visit my parents. By the time all is said and done, we will have driven more than 3,000 miles in the space of about two weeks.

As you can imagine, that means the trip has not been all sunshine and roses. Our children range in age from 8 years old to 8 months old, and they're not too keen on long stretches riding in a minivan. I honestly don't know what we would have done without a DVD player and a stack of movies. (It makes me wonder how my parents survived long trips with me and my sister when we were younger. They must be far more patient than I am.)

We did suffer through some serious periods of whining. Many times I heard moans from the back seat: "I'm thirsty." Or, "She's bothering me!" Or, "My bum hurts." Or, "McDonald's again?" Oh, wait, that last complaint came from my wife. But really, what can you expect from a restaurant critic?

We tried to curtail some of the complaining by doing a good chunk of our driving at night while the kids (but hopefully not the driver) slept, and that did help.

But we still had to pay insanely high gas prices during our all-too-frequent stops to fill up. My folks helped us out there by providing some gas money (thanks, Mom and Dad!), and driving the minivan was still cheaper than flying. I guess I could have rented one of those tiny hybrids and tried to cram the family into it, but I think that would have led to even more "she's-touching-me" incidents.

Anyway, all of this brings me back to the point of this column. Despite all the driving and whining and high gas prices, we have had a wonderful vacation. It has been great to get away from the responsibilities of work and home and enjoy visiting family and friends, eating good food (in quantities that will require some serious working out upon my return) and hanging out at the beach. I definitely needed the break.

And, based on what I read all the time in various studies and reports, so do you.

We Americans work a lot. We put in longer hours than people in other parts of the world. We work more nights and weekends. We don't use all of our vacation days each year, often losing our right to that paid time off. And we see all this as a badge of honor. (Frankly, I'm no better than anyone else in this respect. I am, after all, writing this column while on vacation!)

I know the productivity of the American worker helps make our economy strong and our nation great. But I also know that productivity suffers when people don't get enough rest and relaxation. So do morale, relationships and the concept of having a life outside the workplace.

So, I would like to add my voice to the choir that recommends we all change the way we think about work. By all means, work hard at your job. Do your absolute best. Strive to excel, be productive and go the extra mile.

But remember that you need to take time to rest, too. I think you will find that it actually increases your productivity, if not your attitude.

Yes, cube-dwellers of the world, it's time for you to use that time off you've been losing every year.

Take a vacation. You deserve it. You need it. And I promise they'll get by at the office without you. After all, a Deseret Morning News business section was printed every day while I was gone, wasn't it?

Back to dealing with your financial questions next week. If you have one, please send it by e-mail to gkratz@desnews.com or by regular mail to the Deseret Morning News, P.O. Box 1257, Salt Lake City, UT 84110.

E-mail: gkratz@desnews.com