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“An upcoming vacation gives us something to eagerly anticipate.” -Jaime Kurtz
I know that I’m not alone when I say that I relate to this quote. I sing Surfin USA in the shower while thinking about doing nothing but relaxing by the pool with a cocktail in hand.
With studies showing that our brains work best when rested, vacations are also a great chance for your brain to take a break and recharge. So with all these positives, why do 62% of Americans still check work-emails while on vacation?
In today’s article, we will discuss how you can efficiently prepare for your holiday, organize your work efficiently, and fully disconnect from work while you’re away.
How to leave for vacation with a relaxed mind.
Schedule your vacation in advance
If you want to leave for your vacation with a relaxed and stress-free mind, then make sure you plan your holidays in advance.
As soon as you know your departure date, you can organize your schedule accordingly. You know not to schedule meetings or any big engagements on the days just before or after your return.
I never scheduled an interview or meeting on the day I came back into the office after vacation. The post-holiday blues are already hard enough, so it’s a good idea not to organize a crucial meeting or one-to-one with your boss too close to your return.
Filling your first day back to the office with meetings or interviews is setting yourself up for a stressful vacation. You’ll find it difficult to unwind if you’re thinking about everything that is waiting for you when you come back. Instead, ease into your routine the first few days back and give yourself time to catch up on any missed emails and calls.
Rather than booking an official meeting, suggest a more casual coffee with your colleagues, where they can update you on anything that’s happened while you’ve been away.
As soon as you know your dates, put them in a shared calendar. This way, you and your colleagues all know when you’re on vacation and will avoid scheduling a meeting with an important client or a large conference on the day of your return.
Work harder to feel more relaxed
Before going on holiday, it’s hard to stay focused. Especially in summer, where your workload can be quiet at one moment, and then insanely busy rushed the next.
Working harder in the weeks leading up to your holiday can actually help you feel more relaxed when you’re away. Stay for an extra hour after you’re meant to leave and file, organize and tie up any loose ends.
By doing this, you won’t get the unpleasant greeting of unfinished work on your return. Coming back to your job will feel much less challenging and it will be easier to disconnect with work and relax on your holiday.
Make a to-do list for yourself prior to leaving. Write this list in order of importance, and leave it on your desk. This list will give you peace of mind that, upon your return, you will easily be able to catch up with any unfinished tasks
Also, inform people that you regularly have contact with outside of your company, (customer, suppliers, service provider, employees…) when you’ll be away. You can create an automatic email (more on that below), but it can be more personable to send an individual email or give them a quick call. They will appreciate the effort and be less likely to disturb you.
Send a handover email to your colleagues and/or manager
Be sure to send a detailed hand over email with all of your current projects and tasks that need to be addressed while you’re on vacation.
Make sure to give as much information as possible, especially important things like contact details, file history, actions to be taken, or deadlines, explaining the degree of importance for each one.
Your colleagues won’t be expected to manage all your work while you’re away, so only send them tasks and information that can’t wait for your return.
After sending the email, you could also discuss the relevant tasks and projects with your colleagues in person. However, don’t leave this until the last minute. Your colleagues won’t be very enthusiastic about having a meeting at 7:30 pm on Friday.
Tidy up your desk
Before you leave, clean up your desk. I assure you that when you return to the office you will enjoy a tidy, organized desk. If you leave your workspace messy prior to your vacation, with files and sheets sprawled across your desk, your return to work will feel even more stressful.
A clear desk makes for a clear mind, and so by tidying your space before you leave, you will ensure a smooth return back to work.
Schedule an automatic reply on your emails
Remember to set up your email with an “Automatic reply”.
In your automatic reply, specify the dates you will be out of office, along with the contact details of who else they can reach. When adding a colleague’s contact details, be sure to add “to contact in case of emergency”, so not to flood your colleagues’ mailbox.
Thank you for your email. I am currently out of the office from [date] to [date] and will not have access to my emails. I will get back to you as soon as I can upon my return.
In case of an emergency, please contact [xxxx] to the email [firstname.lastname@example.org].
Once everything is ready, it’s time to set off on holiday and disconnect!
How to disconnect from work while on vacation
The importance of cutting yourself off
Our phone is very addictive and it can be tempting to check our emails while on holiday, even while lying on a deck chair at the beach.
However, it’s important to fully cut yourself off from work. If you’re constantly checking your emails, then you are not on holiday, theoretically maybe, but mentally not. Constantly checking your email outside of work can cause anxiety, tension, and could even trigger burnout.
Holidays are made so you can recharge, revitalize, restore your mind and body. If you work while you’re away, not only will your mood be negatively impacted, but you also risk upsetting your family or partner by being on your phone constantly.
An email detox is absolutely necessary in order to recharge your batteries, while also playing an important role in developing your creativity.
Disconnecting from work and the stresses of everyday life allows you to fully enjoy the present moment, and means you’ll return to work feeling relaxed and more productive.
If the idea of totally disconnecting from work worries you because you don’t want to miss something important or an emergency, ask one of your colleagues to call you in case of an urgent emergency. Explain that you can still be reached by calling your personal mobile, but be sure to specify what you mean by emergency, i.e. urgent issues with a client. You don’t want to be contacted for issues or questions that can wait for your return.
I remember on my vacation to Colombia, I constantly checked my emails. I did this because of professional conscience, but I also believe that I wanted to prove to my boss that I was serious about the job.
Not allowing myself to disconnect from work was a bad idea. Even though I was on a wonderful trip, that has given me many amazing memories (and indigestion from the hundreds of empanadas I consumed), checking my emails definitely tainted the experience. I started to feel anxious about my return, thinking about everything I had to do when I got back to work.
On my next holiday, I promised myself I wouldn’t do the same thing. I knew if I started checking my emails while I was away, I would feel stressed and not be able to fully enjoy the trip with my loved ones.
So this vacation, one of the first things I did was I muted my work emails, allowing myself to fully disconnect from work and relax. I gave myself peace of mind that even though I wasn’t checking my work emails if there were an urgent emergency one of my colleagues would call me.
I’m not a brain surgeon or a firefighter, so it was unlikely any situation would be life or death. Any tasks that may arise in my absence could wait for my return, and if it couldn’t, I knew one of my colleagues would let me know.
By doing this, you can enjoy your holiday knowing that if anything urgent happens, you’ll be informed. This method also protects you from unimportant or non-urgent emails, while also helping you control any feelings of guilt or anxiety because you know you’ll be contacted if something urgently needs your reply.
What if you really need to check on your email?
If your responsibilities require you to check your emails daily, or not looking causes you too much anxiety, then limit the time you check your emails to a specific time slot. For example, in the evening, at the end of the day or between coming back from the beach and your evening mojito! Choose a time where you won’t deprive yourself of a beautiful landscape or be interrupting time with your loved ones.
Similarly, only answer emergency emails. If you answer every email you receive, your colleagues and clients will continue to respond as they will assume that you are available and happy to answer.
Any other time, put your phone on airplane mode, leave your business devices inside, and even delete any work-related applications. If you keep work applications on your phone, it can become a habit to check them. I remember constantly opening my LinkedIn app, so often that I started to do it without thinking. I decided to remove LinkedIn from my phone and really reduced my screen time.
While on vacation, beyond the professional emails, I also advise you to disconnect from any social networks in general. Take part in a ‘technological detox.’ There is more to life beyond Instagram.
I hope this article helps you leave for vacation with a relaxed and stress-free mind. These experiences are precious, so savor, appreciate, and enjoy them to the fullest.
Being professional is great, and responding in case of a real emergency is also important. However, disconnecting from your job and everyday life for two weeks will help you recharge, relax, and come back more productive than ever.
Have a nice holiday!