Vacation Unplugged: Mastering the Art of Taking Time Off From Work

by | Health, Productivity, Travel


Do you dread your vacation because you have to work at breakneck speed to prepare, only to return to an overflowing inbox? You're not alone. Many Americans struggle to disconnect, creating a cycle of anticipatory stress that affects not just us but our travel companions as well. But fear not, embracing a vacation unplugged can be your new skill set, and it’s easier than you think. You don't have to be a vacation martyr!


The Statistics Don’t Lie

According to a study conducted by ELVTR on 2300 workers over 18 years old, a staggering 68% of people work on vacation across all demographics. Flip that number, and you’ll see that 32% manage to disconnect entirely.

Reasons for Working on Vacation

  • Need for Control (15%): Some people work because they need to be in control. Does this resonate with you?
  • Love for the Job (27%): They adore their job and don’t mind working on vacation. But does their family feel the same?
  • No One to Delegate To (37%): These individuals don’t have people to offload their tasks to.

Pre-Vacation Strategies

Block Your Calendar

Before you set sail, block your calendar the day before you leave and your first day back. This isn't just about avoiding meetings but giving yourself VIP time to wrap up loose ends and ease back into work. Whether your vacation is six months out or next week, block those dates now. It'll guard you against last-minute scheduling chaos.

Update Your Email Signature

Around two to three weeks before your vacation, update your email signature to announce your out-of-office dates. Use a standout color—like red or purple—and make it eye-catching. For instance, “Heads up: out of the office and out of the inbox from May 15 to May 23.” This alerts colleagues and clients early on and reduces last-minute scrambles.

Set Expectations

If you've previously checked emails or texts while on vacation, setting new expectations is crucial. Inform your colleagues and clients well in advance that you’ll be entirely unplugged this time. Hold yourself and others accountable.

Assign a Gatekeeper

Choose one person to be your contact point and define what constitutes a true emergency. Email is a no-go since it exposes you to all your inbox messages. Instead, opt for a phone call. The inconvenience of making a phone call will often make people reconsider if it’s really worth interrupting your vacation.

While You’re Away

Delegate like a Pro

Fully brief your backup with the necessary information, program access, and decision-making powers. Equip them well so they can handle anything in your absence. For me, providing our concierge, Lisa, access to essential tools like Podia and ConvertKit codes is crucial for a smooth handover.

Resist the Urge to Peek

Empower your team and show them you trust them by resisting the urge to check emails. Each glance adds to your stress and detracts from your relaxation. Remember, your team is capable!

Set Phone on Driving Mode

To avoid constant pings, set your phone on driving mode with a custom message informing people that you’re on vacation and unavailable till your return. This simple trick ensures you’re not bombarded with texts and lets the sender know why you’re not responsive.

Scheduled Check-ins (For Solopreneurs)

If you must check your emails, assign one time daily—preferably early in the morning. Set a timer for 15 minutes, scan through the essentials, and then shut it down. Inform your family that this is the only time you can check in, reducing their anticipatory stress.


Post-Vacation Strategies

Avoid the Pre-Return Peak

Don’t give in to the temptation to log in and get ahead of Monday's workload. You have blocked your calendar, so trust your strategy. Also, keep your out-of-office message one day longer than your actual return date to give yourself time to catch up.

Utilize Offline Modes

If you're using Outlook, click “work offline” after downloading all your emails. This prevents new emails from flooding your inbox and lets you respond in peace. Once you’re done, toggle back to online mode to send all responses in one go, avoiding continuous back-and-forth. Similarly, Boomerang's Inbox Pause feature can keep incoming emails at bay while you catch up.

Embrace the Skill of Vacation Unplugged

Taking a vacation should be a time of rest and recharge even when you work from home. Implement these steps and wear your ability to disconnect like a badge of honor. It's more than just taking time off; it’s investing in your overall well-being and productivity. Now, go ahead and unplug!

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