I recently returned from a week’s vacation — a pretty normal occurrence for many. Except, it’s not for me. Most of my “vacations” are just work in another locale, sometimes out of necessity (the mom gig with young kids, for example), and sometimes, frankly, because I’m just bad at unplugging. On this recent vacation, though, I left the laptop behind and (mostly) resisted the urge to read news or scroll social media while I let my mind, body and soul recharge.

I fit in with many Americans who go, go, go, wearing productivity as a badge of honor. (It’s not.) On the first cruise my husband and I ever went on, paid for by our children for our 30th anniversary, I brought my laptop and worked the entire week. How dumb is that?! In my head, I think my busyness is justified (as I’m sure every other busy person does). My to-do list is as long as my arm and, to be frank, I really do get a lot done. But I don’t get a lot of downtime.

My most common response to the question “How are you doing?” is “Good, but I am sooo busy.” But, let’s be honest here — I’ve said that since before I was married or had children, so I’ve apparently gotten “better” at being productive and busy. My grandma used to say she was so behind on her to-do list that she would never die. She’s still alive at 101, so she just might be right.

But here’s the thing: we all need downtime.

Stephen Covey talked about “sharpening the saw.” Writer Anne Lamott reminds us that “Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.”

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I really should know better. I mean, I’ve written about the benefits of boredom, given a TEDx talk on how following your heart can lead you right into burnout and, the real kicker here, my doctoral dissertation focused on emotional labor, burnout and deep self care. However, knowing I need downtime to recharge does not mean I am good at making that time.

With the vacation looming, I was committed to putting what I’ve learned into action. I embraced “dolce far niente,” or the “sweetness of doing nothing.” I spent the week with extended family, without an agenda or a computer. I soaked up both vitamin D and vitamin Sea. I let myself be bored and let my mind wander. I let myself (OK, made myself) sit in silence. I wrote in my journal. I watched sunrises and sunsets, played games with 20+ extended family members and we laughed until our sides hurt.

It was good for my soul.

I came back rejuvenated and recharged — and guess what: the world kept spinning without me.

I also came back with a renewed commitment to “unplug and recharge” more often. I know that for me, that means I have to literally schedule time on the calendar or it won’t happen. You’ll understand, then, why I read with such interest the article “Treat your weekends like a vacation” by radio personality Maria Shilaos, posted the day I returned.

Shilaos interviewed UCLA researcher Cassie Holmes, professor of marketing and behavioral decision making at the UCLA Anderson School of Management. Holmes is one of the authors on a study of happiness and the benefits of “weekend vacations.” Americans are not only living in the only industrialized country in the world that does not mandate vacation, but even when paid time off is available, many Americans don’t take it. When I lived in France as a teen, the entire country took either July or August off. And I mean completely. Friends at school lived in concrete apartment buildings, but had seaside cottages they moved into for a month or more every summer.

Holmes and her fellow researchers found positive benefits for employees and employers when treating weekends like a vacation. Participants slept longer, lingered over their dining and did fewer chores. Their productivity at work increased because of their weekend reset. Their happiness went up. “What was interesting is that it wasn’t those shifts in how people spent their time that really drove the effect on happiness, it was actually their mindset,” Holmes told Shilaos.

Holmes and her fellow researchers did add a caveat at the end of their study: “We strongly caution readers against using this intervention as a substitute for actually taking a vacation.”

Holmes has also written a book based on her research and the MBA class she teaches at UCLA — “Happier Hour: How to Beat Distraction, Expand Your Time, and Focus on What Matters Most.” “Our most precious resource isn’t money. It’s time. We are allotted just 24 hours a day, and we live in a culture that keeps us feeling ‘time poor,’” says the book’s description.

It’s already in my audio library, waiting to inspire me on my commute. On double speed.

Holly Richardson is the editor of Utah Policy