Letting go of all work responsibilities for a week or two can terrify even seasoned professionals. But vacations should be devoid of work. If we’re going to constantly check our cell for messages, why leave? We can do that at home. If unplugging concerns us, we have to remember that vacations make us better at what we do, because unplugging allows our brains to relax and fill with creative thoughts we didn’t even know were hiding in there. If we keep checking and responding to messages, those creative thoughts remain hidden. The point of a vacation is to open ourselves to refreshing experiences, to enjoy the people and places around us. The analogy to “charging batteries” is a good one. Come back with a full charge. Here are six ways to help make that easier.
Talk to your colleagues before you leave
We teach people how to treat us. Teach your colleagues that when you are on vacation, you are off limits. If you’re an associate at a big law firm or fairly new at a job, this might be more difficult, but even there, we can use a few tricks to keep people happy while we’re gone. At least a month ahead, tell people you’ll be on vacation. As you get closer, plan what work must be delegated, and write an automatic response to emails. USA Today suggests including our return date and the names and contact information of coworkers to contact in our absence. Just remember to notify those colleagues and reciprocate when they leave on vacation.
Recognize technology withdrawal
We should welcome the opportunity to spend a few days without a cell phone. Sometimes it requires a little adjustment, but after a day or two, we settle into a much quieter and more peaceful existence—the purpose of a vacation. To help, leave the technology back at the cabin or hotel. If it’s not with us, we can’t use it.
Ask your travel companions to hold you accountable
The people with whom we share our vacations want to spend time interacting with us, not listening to or watching us interact with our technology. If we need help dealing with technology withdrawal during that first day or two, we can make a pact with a friend or spouse to swap cell phones, so no one gets distracted.
Choose a remote vacation spot
We might even plan a trip to a region where cell service is spotty or nonexistent. Plus, remote areas are often gorgeous. Last summer, WordRake’s Manager of Technology kayaked off Vancouver Island in British Columbia for 10 days. We couldn’t reach him if we wanted to. This fall, one of the WordRake founders spent two weeks hiking the desert in Utah, Arizona, and Colorado. Ditto.
If international travel is an option, choose a destination with a big time difference. When workday hours don’t overlap, we can’t be expected to participate in meetings or promptly respond to emails.
Remember life’s still going to be there
Upon returning, it might shock us, but the world worked just fine while we were gone. Even if our coworkers let us know it’s nice to have us back, they somehow managed projects and meetings without us. Here’s the really scary thought: If we didn’t take full advantage of being on vacation, it’s now too late.
Plan how to catch up on missed work
When we return from vacation, we’ll want to wade through missed emails quickly. Let’s be realistic. Faced with 200 substantive emails when we return, we’re going to feel overwhelmed. Acknowledge that. Here, a one-hour triage of where and when to spend our energy goes a long way toward a quick recovery, and editing tools like WordRake for Outlook will make that one-hour triage even more productive.