Thirty years ago (and before that), when someone went on vacation, it was so simple. They simply didn’t show up for work and they left their thoughts and worries behind. There was nothing they had nothing to unplug from! They probably didn’t even give the name and phone number of their hotel to their boss. Okay, maybe some people did. But for the most part, people simply shifted mindsets, packed their bags, and off they went!
But times have changed. It’s not so easy to do that anymore.
Think about it. If you are old enough to remember time before email, you know what I’m talking about. Answering emails takes a long time. Some people get up to 300 emails on a daily basis at work. How is it possible to even keep up with that – and actually do your job? And imagine if you were gone two weeks. Fourteen days multiplied by 300 emails, that’s 4,200 emails to answer when you get back!
Our society has changed so much. We live in a much more fast-paced world where everything is available to us 24/7. And because of that, we also expect people to be available to us whenever we want as well. For example, if you don’t answer someone’s text immediately, then they might get angry and think you’re ignoring them. And you can no longer just go home from work and sit on the couch and watch TV until you go to bed. Most people feel the need to, or are expected to, catch up on work (or emails) that they didn’t get to during the day. So imagine how they feel when they go on vacation!
Vacation is supposed to be relaxing and rejuvenating. But these days, it can be anything but that. In fact, it almost stresses people out more because they can’t stop thinking about all the work they’ll have waiting for them when they return to their job.
So what should you do? Never take a vacation again for the rest of your life? Of course not. While vacationing may be more complicated now that it was in decades past, it can still be very enjoyable.
Here are some tips for how to unplug from work on your next vacation:
Plan the vacation well in advance.
Sure, it might be fun and exciting to take a spur-of-the-moment trip to Vegas next week, but can you imagine how much stress that would cause you? If you want to relax and enjoy your vacation, then you have to plan in advance. There are many things that need to be done even before you leave, so vacations are not the best time to be spontaneous.
Time the vacation to your advantage.
Imagine what would happen if an accountant scheduled a vacation in early April? You would think they are nuts, right? What kind of accountant would schedule a vacation right before tax day? The same should be true for you. Don’t leave during a busy season. Make sure you go when things are slow at the office.
Sometimes it’s easy to be overwhelmed when you have so much to prepare for. So if you’re not in the habit already, make sure you develop a habit of making checklists. That will relieve your stress, and you can feel a sense of accomplishment when you see what you cross off of it. Check out this mother of all vacation packing checklists. Sorry…you’ll still have to create the work checklists.
Over-communicate before you leave.
If you do choose to go away during a busy time (or even if it’s a slow time), you will need to talk to your boss, your colleagues, customers, or anyone else who will notice your absence. Make sure they know well in advance what to do when you’re gone. That way, there will be no surprises for them – or you.
Make sure you leave a detailed “out of the office” email reply.
In other words, don’t just say, “Hi, I’m out of the office until February 23rd, so please contact me then.” You want to leave a detailed message about who is taking care of things in your absence. The more detailed it is, the less you will be bothered on your vacation. Make sure people know your emergency contact information, too. And part of this involves you designating who will take over in your place when you are gone.
Turn off your notifications and don’t bring work with you.
This may cause a sense of panic for many of you, but it’s really for the best. Get as much done as you can before you leave, and then don’t be tempted to bring your job with you. Make sure those notifications are off, and leave the paperwork at home.
Leave your phone and computer in your hotel room.
Do you REALLY want to be sitting on a beach by the ocean checking your work emails? Doesn’t that kind of defeat the purpose of being on vacation? If you don’t leave your phone and computer in your room, then you will always feel tempted to check them. So just don’t even do it.
Allow yourself to stop feeling guilty about not checking in.
Not only is it okay to be a little selfish during vacations, but it’s absolutely necessary! That whole point of a vacation is to enjoy yourself. And if you carry the nagging feeling of guilt with you, then you will never fully enjoy your time off.
Don’t even talk about work.
It might be difficult to do this, especially if you are passionate about your career or your traveling companions are also colleagues. But vacation is about fun and relaxation. So talk about things related to having fun – or even just have some deep interesting conversations you’ve always wanted to have but don’t have time for when you’re so busy with work.
If you absolutely have to check in, then do it at designated times.
Sometimes it’s just not realistic to completely unplug. Maybe you own a company, and so your employees do need to check in with you once in a while. That’s fine. But make sure it’s at the same time every day. That way, they will know your boundaries and not bother you the rest of the times.
Remind yourself why you took this vacation – and be in the present moment.
Above all, you went on vacation to relax and have fun! Sometimes we get so used to being stressed out that we forget what it’s like not to feel that way. But it’s not healthy to work too much. Remind yourself that this particular vacation will never come again, so enjoy it while you can. Be present.
Bottom line – vacations should be fun! But with the crazy world we live in these days, sometimes it’s difficult sometimes to just breathe, disconnect, and become a little self-indulgent. But you deserve it! So keep these tips in mind next time you book your next flight.