Admiral John Richardson

When I was chief of naval operations, we gathered the senior leadership together to discuss the importance of taking a real break. The science is clear! Then we made it a policy that everybody would take 10–14 continuous days of vacation each year—off the grid. And we monitored that closely. So, come August, if a leader hadn’t taken their days, we had a pretty serious discussion about why not, and when would a break be scheduled before December? And of course, to enable this, it’s not just about the one person—it requires that you prepare and empower your team so you can step away for 14 days and the wheels won’t come off. I led by example here, taking my time off as well!

Recovery is essential to mission effectiveness. That must include both taking time off to reenergize and to have the team and structure in place so that this time off can be protected and the mission will continue. And what works for the boss works for the team—they also need to be responsible for ensuring that their teams take time off. Without these breaks, fatigue sets in, decisions deteriorate, inefficiency increases, and performance drops. We need to build a more sustainable approach.

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