Summer is here, and for many people, that means vacation time. Summer vacation…a time to disconnect from work and spend time with family and friends. It makes me so sad when a colleague is out of the office on vacation and yet is quick to return a work-related email or phone message, just as if he or she was at work.
I hate to see this happening because I understand it all too well. Not too long ago, that was me. If I dared let myself take even a few consecutive days off I felt compelled to check my work email and voicemail, sometimes multiple times in a day.
Despite what we may have been conditioned to believe, the old adage “working harder isn’t necessarily smarter” is absolutely true. We need time to unplug!
Why unplug from work?
Unplugging from work and from your daily responsibilities has several benefits:
- Improves focus and productivity – Your brain is like a muscle and needs recovery time in order to function at its best. If you are constantly plugged into work, you aren’t giving your brain time to recoup!
- Helps you gain new perspectives – In one CNN report, Professor Adam Galinsky (Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University) states that detaching from a familiar environment can help you gain new perspectives on everyday life. This can help boost your creativity when you return to work.
- Boosts your immune system – Rest reduces stress and helps you sleep better, both of which boost your immune system.
So how can you unplug from work without feeling stressed about it? Here are some tips:
- Disable notifications – This is a something I advise whether you are on vacation or not. Pop-up notifications are a major cause of distraction, even at work. It’s best to disable these when possible.
- Set your autoresponder (email and phone message) – Doing this will alert people that responses from you will be delayed because you are out and are not checking messages. If appropriate, provide an alternate contact in case of emergency.
- Email those who need to know ahead of time – Send an email before you leave letting people know you will be out and will not respond to correspondence until you return. This group might include your peers, direct reports, and project team members.
- Do a thorough weekly review before you leave – I use my own customized version of David Allen’s (Getting Things Done) Weekly Review to ensure that I have organized my projects and tasks before I leave. This puts me in a much better place when I return and helps me rest easy while I’m away.
- If you MUST Check in, put it on a schedule and time block it – If checking email is a must, set a timer, such as one used in the Pomodoro technique, to ensure that you don’t spend the bulk of your vacation day on work.
- Block time on your calendar to catch up – If possible, find at least a couple of hours on the day you return to catch up on your emails and voice messages. Knowing you have this time already built in when you return will help you rest easier while you’re out.
Hopefully, these tips will help you unplug on your next vacation.After all, the only question you should need to answer while you’re away is if you want salt on your margarita!