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ATD Blog

Your Brain Needs a Vacation


Fri May 30 2014


After months of cold, windy, dreary winter, summer is finally upon us. Traditionally, this is the time to take a vacation, travel to new sites, take it easy, and break your regular routine. 

Neuroscience tells us that this change of pace is extremely valuable. Your brain uses these new sensations to build new neural pathways, and the break from routine stimulates higher, more creative thought while it reduces stress.  It is well-documented that overworked, over-tired employees are more accident-prone, have higher healthcare costs, and are less productive.


 Yet, the average American worker left nine vacation days unused in 2012. Employees often state that they have too much work to take time off, or they fear employer retaliation for being a “slacker.”

While this problem can occur in any country, it is particularly pronounced in the United States. The Center for Economic and Policy Research compared paid vacations in 21 prosperous nations and found that the U.S. ranked dead last in terms of the number of days provided and taken.

Don’t be one of those statistics. Be a role model for your employees by embracing your vacation—and encourage your team and colleagues to do the same.

Vacation reading list

Another great summer tradition is taking the time to read a good book (or two.) There’s something about reading a book that slows everything down. In a world where most of our information is delivered in bite-sized chunks, taking the time to let a story build, living with a book for days or weeks, builds a deeper, more experiential type of learning. Here are some books you can get right from the ATD store:

  • The Brain-Friendly Workplace by Erika Garms. This book offers five practical strategies you can implement today to make your workplace more compatible with how our brains work.

  • Memory and Cognition in Learning by Jonathan Halls. In keeping with the ATD Infoline tradition, this slim book gives you quick, targeted, practical information to help you apply the latest discoveries in neuroscience to the classroom or instructional design.

Want to delve deeper into the theory? Here are some books from my bookshelf that are sometimes used as college texts. They are a bit more challenging, but worth the effort. Pick and choose the chapters that interest you most.

Want to focus on the neuroscience of leadership? A great place to start is the Neuroleadership Institute, founded by David Rock. You’ll find reading materials and educational opportunities on their site.

Please join me in the Science of Learning Community

For the past year, I’ve enjoyed exploring the field of neuroscience as it applies to our work in human capital management with you. Now, I’m inviting you to join me in the new Science of Learning Community right here at ATD.

I’ll be joining other learning professionals who are passionate about applying scientific knowledge and methods to our work as scholar-practitioners in the field of adult learning. We are going on an exciting journey of discovery and power. Come with me! While I will continue to share insights with the Human Capital Community, I’ll be focusing most of my efforts in the Science of Learning Community from now on. I hope to see you there—as well here—for years to come.


Thanks for reading, tweeting, and sharing this blog!

For more on neuroscience applications for human capital, check out the full blog series here.

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