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How to avoid working on vacation

Vacation is meant to be a restorative break – a chance to put it all behind you, to set work stress aside and to recharge. But the fact is, many Americans continue to work while on vacation. According to a recent Harris Poll/CareerBuilder survey, three in every 10 workers stays connected with work while on vacation.

All of life’s technological conveniences now make it easier for your colleagues to pester you all over the world. And many people are so accustomed to checking their phones multiple times in an hour that stopping completely for a week or two can seem impossible. But to really capture the benefit of time off and away, it’s important to disconnect. These tips may help you do just that.

If possible, schedule to match work flow

Most organizations have peak seasons and slow seasons. If spring is the busiest time for your job, then spring is not the best time for you to go if you really want to get away. Take a look at the annual calendar and see if there are pockets of time when your business or team is less likely to be overwhelmed and can spare you.

Plan to work a bit harder ahead of time

The fact is, you’ll probably have to work harder and longer during the two weeks before you go. The point is to get your tasks and projects ready for the days when you will be away. Putting in the extra hours before you go can be a good investment in your ability to relax on vacation, knowing things are well-handled. Just don’t go overboard to the point of pre-trip exhaustion.

Leave a written summary behind for co-workers

As time for departure nears, create a written “hand-off” describing all of your work in progress. List each project, its status, the next steps, and the due date. Keep it to one page. Include the phone numbers and email addresses of any others involved so your colleagues (and your boss) have someone to contact who isn’t you.

The week before you leave, make an appointment with your boss to walk him or her through your hand-off document. This is your chance to make sure they know they have someone to turn to for every item on the list.

Define “emergency” for all parties

Obviously, you’ll want to let people know how to contact you in an emergency. But it’s important to state what you mean when you say “emergency,” ideally, in writing. Your definition of an emergency might be “contact me only if someone dies.” Or, there may be a specific work announcement or pending deal you absolutely must know about at the time it takes place. The important thing is that people know when it’s okay to contact you.

Wrangle your email

Set up an automated response email, letting people know you are gone, how long you will be gone, and that you will have limited access to email. If people don’t think they can reach you, they are less likely to try. Include the contact information for a person who can answer questions during your absence. You might want to set up a vacation-only email account. This is a good way to keep in touch with your mom or other family members and won’t tempt you with work conversations you feel compelled to join.

Put limits on yourself

It should be obvious by now that the best methods for avoiding work while on vacation are all things you do before you leave. But once you leave, the more important actor in this scenario is you. In a regular day, how many times an hour do you check your email or phone? This will be a hard habit to break once away. Set a check-in schedule for yourself – perhaps once a day at a certain time for a certain amount of time – and stick to it. Treat yourself well by keeping your promise to yourself.

Of course, if you really want to decompress, choosing a completely out-of-the-way destination is the way to go. Travel somewhere where there is no wi-fi, even if it’s just a day excursion from your city-vacation home base. When you know there is no way to connect, you are less likely to care, and you can truly relax.

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