Now is the best time to plan out your PTO for the rest of the year

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You've probably just rounded out your first full week on the job in 2023 and might be yearning for another break. Here's an idea: Start thinking about your next vacation. Start planning your vacations for the next year, in fact. Some of the busiest corporate VIPs do it, and you should, too.

U.S. workplaces are among the worst for offering the least amount of paid vacation days, and even employees who do have access to PTO are pretty terrible at taking all the time they're given. There are plenty of factors that make it difficult to take time off: vacations are expensive, there's always work to do, and Covid-19 still makes travel kind of hard to figure out.

But a little planning ahead can help out a lot.

Plan ahead for big events

First, you'll want to take stock of how many days you actually have. Do you have different buckets to pull from, like vacation days versus personal days, or do you have one PTO bank to account for? Do any of your days have to be used within a certain time period? Do you get your days all at once, or are they earned throughout the year?

Once you have that baseline, think about the big events throughout the year you know you'll want time off for.

Say you're in a wedding party this year. Pull out your calendar of when you're taking part in the many showers, getaways and ceremonies. Then do the same for any big family events, school breaks, graduations, celebrations and other gatherings on your radar.

Think about when you could use a break

With planned events out of the way, also go through each month or each quarter and note when you'll be in a busy period at work. Maybe planning a week away right before your annual work conference isn't a great idea. But you could absolutely schedule some time out after the busy period to give yourself something to look forward to. Plus, research suggests just planning a trip can make you happy.

That's what Boomerang co-founder Aye Moah does: "I tend to schedule a vacation after a product launch, because they're so exhausting. I get really tightly wound up before one," she told CNBC Make It last summer. "So after a launch, I'll spend a week in the office to make sure everything is still going smoothly. Then the second week after a launch, I'll go somewhere completely off the grid."

Pace yourself

Taking a step back, you might also want to check that you're pacing your PTO so you don't end up with a ton of days in December when everyone wants to be off.

Try the approach of Kim Jones, PwC's talent strategy and people experience leader: "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."

And schedule time off even if you don't have a destination planned. You don't necessarily have to submit your PTO request just yet, but schedule in breaks over the next few months whether they're for an occasion or just for yourself.

"Time off does not have to be a big fancy expensive vacation," Salesforce chief medical officer Dr. Geeta Nayyar told CNBC Make It in June. Days off are just as restorative even if they're spent in your own backyard, she adds: "When you're well-rested, you're more productive than when you're working 24-7."

Check out:

Why 2023 will be the year you get paid to rest

Don’t read vacation emails, keep your return date a secret and other tips for hacking your PTO

26-year-old quit her job to ask strangers how much money they make—now she's scoring 6-figure deals

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How this 26-year-old earns and spends $25,000 a year just outside NYC
How this 26-year-old earns and spends $25,000 a year just outside NYC