Every once in a while I use this blog as a confessional. And here I go again with a confession: I did not unplug during my vacation this summer - and it made a significant impact.
Sadly, I was feeling some pressure on a few work projects and another fundraising volunteer role that I have taken on…and instead of unplugging totally and experiencing full relaxation, I was virtually tied to my responsibilities through that gosh-darn, yet beloved, ubiquitous mobile device.
And what could I have done? Shirked my responsibilities? No - that isn’t like me - or you, most likely. I did some research so you won’t make the same mistake this summer. Do as I say… not as I do, right? Hopefully - it is not too late for you. Sometimes the best months for vacation are August and September!
Know Your Limits
We all know that our tech gadgets are for work - and play. So you don’t have to unplug entirely from the internet on vacation - nor feel guilty if you are enjoying a game of “Make it Fit,” my current secret addition. In fact, you may ENJOY staying connected to friends, fun and family via technology. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Just make sure you glance at email for what time tennis starts doesn’t lead to ‘just a quick reply’ for unnecessary and non-urgent work email, just to get them out of the way. (This leads to major scope creep in your vacation planning.)
Know What is “Good Enough”
That is, what is "good enough" for passing by at work. Understand your office culture and separate your colleagues’ expectations from your own anxiety. If the idea of ignoring all your work email fills you with fear, is that because you like to be in touch, or because you really could lose your job if you disconnect? What is the minimum connectivity that will be accepted at your job? Think about it and react accordingly.
Turn Off your Notifications
On your phone or on your laptop, disable notifications so you can be happily oblivious to non-urgent pop-ups and notifications. In the Apple environment, you can turn on Do Not Disturb. For Android users, check here. Windows users can get away from notifications by using an alternate user account on their computer, or by turning off reminders associated with an individual application like Outlook. And don’t just do this for email and calendar reminders: You can disable notifications in various apps like Evernote, too.
Move Travel Info out of your Email
TripIt is an itinerary manager that you can connect directly to your email account; it monitors incoming emails for anything that looks like a travel confirmation, and puts it into an itinerary you can access from the web or the TripIt app on your phone or tablet. Not only does this keep you out of your inbox, but it gives you a more convenient way of tracking travel details or sharing them with your fellow-travelers.
Set Up a Check-in Schedule
If you are planning to check your business email or voicemail during you holiday, set up a schedule in advance. Maybe you’re going to look at your email for 15 minutes every morning, or twice a week after the kids have gone to bed. Talk with your traveling companions about this schedule so they know when you’re going to be in work mode. And share your game plan with your colleagues, so that they know if and when you will be checking work-related email.
The biggest obstacle to disconnecting isn’t technology: it’s our own level of discipline and commitment to staying unplugged.
If you work a lot, you may find it pretty hard to get your head out of the office – and even harder to break the association between hearing the ping of an incoming email and immediately shifting into work brain. But try some of these tricks to see if you can remember how to enjoy a vacation again.
Do you have any other suggestions for flying under the radar on vacation? Let us know in the comments!