Why this HR leader spends every January planning her vacations for the year

Kim Jones recently took advantage of PwC's $250 quarterly vacation bonus when she took a week off work to attend her daughter's college graduation.
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Last year, PwC made headlines for offering a $250 vacation bonus to employees who take 40 consecutive hours of vacation at a time, up to once per quarter, for a total $1,000 yearly incentive.

Kim Jones, PwC's talent strategy and people experience leader, helped create that policy and recently got to take advantage of it herself. In May, she took a week off to travel from Dallas to watch her daughter graduate from college in New York City. She'd been planning for the moment for 21 years, and for the week-long vacation since January.

"It honestly was one of the best weeks of my life," she tells CNBC Make It. "It was a milestone for my daughter, and a milestone for me, too. I just was able to be a mom that whole week and didn't have to think about things that were going on in the office. I could just fully appreciate and reflect in that moment. And it was so fun."

PwC employees get 15 to 22 vacation days per year depending on their tenure, plus two week-long firm shutdowns in the summer and in the winter. Here, Jones, 53, shares why she's meticulous about planning her time off so far in advance, plus her best strategies for planning a smooth PTO experience.

Why she plans her vacations at the beginning of the year: I like to start off every January thinking through events I know are going to happen during the year or vacations I want to take. I actually have a little spreadsheet where I will break up the 22 days of vacation that I get each year into quarters, so I try to take a reasonable amount of that throughout the year. I try to use all my vacation days each year.

How to be intentional with your vacation time: We work in such a demanding environment that if you're not intentional about planning your PTO in detail, the next thing you know, it's been four or five or six months and you haven't taken a day off. There's always going to be stuff to do and we're always busy.

Having a vacation planned really helps with your mindset as you're going through those demanding times. Work is busy for me from February to April, so knowing I had my daughter's graduation in May made those extra stressful weeks easier to get through. I had a light at the end of the tunnel, if you will.

How to recognize your colleagues for holding down the fort: We talk a lot in the firm about respecting each other's protected time. When I came back from my daughter's graduation, I told my team I was so grateful for them for not interrupting me. Things came up during that week where they could have very easily reached out, but they did an amazing job of not doing that. They saw they could handle things without me being there. So the next time I or someone else is off, we learn from that experience. It motivates you to pay it forward, to double your efforts to not bother your coworkers when they're out of office.

PwC also provides us recognition budgets to reward individuals who promote our strategy, such as helping others keep their protected time. It may be something as small as $25 to get coffee for a week. Who doesn't like that? So find your way to recognize your team members for doing a great job and letting you take that time away.

What she'd tell her 25-year-old self about taking time off: Taking a vacation is about you, but also those around you so you can bring your best self to the team. It helps you stay energized, sharp and focused, and come back to work even stronger.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Check out:

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