Color of Money: Take time to harness the power of the pause

Michelle Singletary on

WASHINGTON -- It's the vacation season, a time to get away. Regrettably, many vacationers take their work with them.

Some people don't even take the time off. Among employees who receive paid leave, only about half (54 percent) fully took their earned vacation time in the past 12 months, according to a survey by the job-search site Glassdoor.

Of those respondents who do take leave, 66 percent said they still end up working. We've become so tethered to our technology that we think nothing of checking our email or text messages even while we are supposed to be on holiday. (Guilty!)

Just pause for a moment to contemplate how far out of balance too many of us have become. We work so hard that we end up not being able to take time to enjoy the good life we are trying to fund.

Imagine how much happier and less stressed we'd all be if, throughout our careers, we learned to slow down and stop -- even if for just for a little while.

That's what Rachael O'Meara did. She was a customer support manager at Google, and she was miserable. Her employee performance evaluations weren't good and she was getting the message that she wasn't working out in her position.

But before her career imploded, O'Meara took a break. She requested three months of unpaid leave to reboot. And out of her experience came the pick for this month's Color of Money Book Club, "Pause: Harnessing the Life-Changing Power of Giving Yourself a Break" (TarcherPerigee, an imprint of Penguin Random House, $15).

"All I could think about was work," O'Meara wrote. "I would be at friends' houses, and while everyone else was engaged in conversation, I was in my own world, two feet away, lost in my emails and worries."

O'Meara is still with Google, now a sales executive. But her break led to a breakthrough in, what she calls, "the power of the pause."

I know that many of you don't have the luxury of taking extended time off, either because your company doesn't offer unpaid or paid leave or you can't afford to take it. Nonetheless, when was the last time you stopped to really consider what's working for you -- in your relationships, your marriage, your finances?


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