As a kid, you longed for summer vacation, counting the days until it arrived and making plans for every precious week. But now, summer’s arrival sneaks up on you. You fail to carve out any downtime and watch your vacation days vanish unused. You curse the overbooked calendar, the full inbox, and all those work emergencies that forced you to miss out on a much-needed break.
Don’t shoot me for saying this, but your workload isn’t to blame here. The real culprit is you! Guilt and fear lie at the heart of the matter. You worry that work will pile up, and dread the thought of colleagues seeing you as a slacker.
Not taking a break may seem like the “right thing to do,” but it isn’t. Your body and your mind need to escape the bombardment you experience each day. A recharge makes you more productive in the long term. So, if you haven’t yet carved out some time off from work this summer, do it. And before you pack your bags, take some precautions to keep the fear and guilt at bay.
- Turn Things Down to a Simmer
Reschedule deadlines and critical decision points so that they won’t occur while you are away. Then, choose a person who is intimately familiar with the work to act in your stead in case an emergency comes up. Share your high-level musts and concerns, and trust that person to make decisions. A stand-in who has your full confidence will keep the work on an even keel, and won’t disturb you.
- Email Rules Are Magical
Don’t answer any emails while you are away—it only confuses your correspondents. Set up your email program to send important items to those covering for you, and all others to a folder labeled “upon my return.” That way you won’t be faced with 800-plus emails in your inbox on your first day back, and will avoid a panic attack that destroys your post-vacation serenity. Once you’re back in the groove, scan the collected email at your own pace. In all likelihood, you’ll find that most of it can be deleted wholesale—either because it’s been handled or because it’s no longer relevant.
- Go Cold Turkey
When you reach your vacation destination, leave your phone and other devices in airplane mode, turn off all notifications, and disconnect from technology. If this causes major withdrawal symptoms, then wean yourself slowly. Try checking your email just once a day, and only for 30 minutes. Schedule an activity for the end of that timeframe. And do your email peeking in the late afternoon, not in the morning—that’s too much like the way you start your workday. The familiarity will trigger your existing patterns of behavior and rope you into work mode.
Enjoy your break from the daily grind.