If I could offer one piece of advice to an employee who was looking to be as productive as they could possibly be over the long term it would be this — take every freaking second of vacation time that you are entitled to. Nothing drives me crazier than people who have some sort of a martyr complex that drives them to think that they are doing themselves and the world a favor by working all of the time building up vacation time that they will never use. Every year there is an incredible amount of vacation time that expires and disappears because it was never used. Not only is it a waste, but it is incredibly unproductive.
I haven´t launched into this tangent because I´m lazy and think that sitting on the beach is what life is all about (though an argument can be made"?¦). It´s as simple as this — you need breaks from your work, and you are far more productive if you let yourself have them. You are refreshed, more focused, and more effective, not to mention much easier to get along with when you have had a chance to get away and recharge. You don´t burn out.
Many companies these days are realizing that vacation time isn´t a cost but an investment for them, and they are no longer trusting their employees to take care of themselves. Some companies are closing down for periods of time — between Christmas and new year´s, for example — to force people to take some time off. The employees can´t say that they are afraid that they will miss something because there is nothing to miss. Other companies are taking more direct approaches to making their employees take a break. Employees who don´t use their vacation time are giving poor performance reviews, lower bonuses and smaller raises than their peers who take care of themselves.
If you do get away and are one of those people who still has to check their e-mail every day, the hotels are starting to accommodate people like you. They will take away your laptop and other electronic devices and lock them up so that you are forced to actually enjoy your vacation.
If you have vacation time and you don´t use it, don´t tell me about it — I won´t be happy.