We have all been there. You are at the beach or in a faraway city, and you have almost completely forgotten work. Then your phone buzzes, and you are right back in it. Just one email – they just need you for this one thing – and then you will get back to relaxing, you swear.
But when you interrupt your time off with little distractions like this, your vacation won’t have the relaxing and recharging effects that your mind and body need. You are throwing off your work-life balance by allowing work to invade your personal time, and you are risking burnout by negating the effects of a relaxing vacation.
Fighting this problem means keeping work out of your vacation – but that may be easier said than done. Keeping work out of downtime is easier for some people than others, but there are things we can all do to better protect our vacations.
There have been plenty of smart things written about the benefits of “unplugging” – turning off your cell phone and closing your laptop for as long as you can during a vacation. Keeping away from screens is good for your eyes. Staying away from work is good for your stress level. And no, disaster isn’t waiting to strike the moment you put down the phone – when your coworkers can’t contact you, you may find that they simply solve problems on their own.
If you have answered emails during vacations in the past, though, you may find it difficult to unplug all at once. It’s easy to feel obligated when you have set that kind of precedent. But it’s not too late to change your attitude and your coworkers’ expectations.
Manage Expectations just like you Manage a Budget
We manage expectations all the time at work. We tell our bosses when things can and can’t be done, we tell clients how much things will cost, and we talk about risks whenever we make big decisions. Far too often, though, we are unwilling to control expectations about our personal lives.
Unplugging is more relaxing when you have managed expectations ahead of time. Talk about your availability in the same way that you would explain that a budget is too low or a deadline too soon, and have the necessary conversations before your vacation begins. Explain when you will be unplugged, and tell others who to contact in your absence. If you manage expectations, you can do dramatic things like turning off your phone (gasp!) without feeling like you have started a company-wide panic.
Set a Schedule
Unplugging for the entirety of a week-long vacation may be out of the question in your industry. That is okay – work-life balance is not an all-or-nothing kind of process. Carve out as much time as you can and set a firm schedule. You give eight hours (or perhaps many more) a day to your job when you are in the office, so give yourself a lot of time off when you are out of it. Check email at a specific time or on specific days, and block out the time in between to unplug. Drive a hard bargain! You deserve time off. If you are a workaholic, remember that time off can recharge you and help you get even more done when you return. Unplugging on vacation does not mean giving in to laziness – it is a sensible work-life strategy that will help you be more productive and happy in the long run.
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