Here is the good news: Your income is up, you feel comfortable taking a vacation and you are actually going to take some paid time off.
Maybe you are finally buying into what the data is telling us: Time off makes us better. Better at our jobs because we are re-energized, better with our family because we are less stressed (clearly these people have not vacationed with kids), and better for ourselves because we are healthier, both mentally and physically.
Vacation can act like a week-long meditation session with by-products like a decrease in stress and a boost in our immune functions, per a study from researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, The University of California, San Francisco. The problem is, while many of us are using paid time off, we are not using it to its fullest potential.
I just returned from a week at the beach with my family. This vacation was more stressful than most as we dealt with a death in the family at home. But even if that did not occur, I was not prepared to truly take a vacation.
Culture, technology, and my own poor habits encourage us to stay plugged in while on vacation. So does fear, fear people won’t think we are committed, fear, we’ll be seen as non-critical to the mission, fear our teammates will let us down, All of this can make taking time off extremely stressful, when it should be restorative.
If you really want to completely disconnect from everyday pressures and reap the positive benefits of a holiday, you need to commit to setting three helpful boundaries.
First, LIE. Maybe lie is a strong word, how about fib…Fib on your out-of-office message. Even if you plan to occasionally check-in, tell people you will have limited email access and to expect a reply on, or shortly after, your return. If you really want to disconnect, I recommend a second option. Since people outside of your organization will not know that you are out of the office until they send the first email, have your out-of-office message reply with a note that you are out of the office and that their email will automatically be deleted. If it is an emergency, they need to contact the following people. If they need to contact you, they need to send another email on the date that you return. Having the second out-of-office message is much more effective but for sales professionals the most anxiety-causing.
Second, put the phone away. Designate a concealed place for your technology. Many of our fears are directly related to the email notifications and reminders of tasks, meetings, and todo’s that we are missing at work. If you don’t have your phone on you, you will not hear those notifications. Since my phone is also my camera and I like to capture pictures to remember the activities we are doing with the kids or I want my beach music playlist with me on the beach, I struggle to put my phone away completely. Option two for this would be to cut off the notifications on your phone for the work-related apps. Turn off the email notifications, turn off the Slack notifications, or if you want to be extreme, delete them from your phone while you are on vacation and download them back to the phone when you get back.
Third, pre-brief and de-brief meetings. Before you leave on vacation and preferably at the last hour of your last day at the office, have a pre-brief with your manager and direct reports. Discuss any deals that you expect a response from while you are gone, discuss any next-steps that need to occur while you are gone and let your team know what is going on with all your current opportunities so they can be ready when or if a call comes in.
Once you return from your vacation, have the same team meet within the first few hours of your return and have a de-brief meeting. What happened that was important while you were gone, what tasks were completed, while fires erupted and are they extinguished? What needs to happen this week? This can help ease the return to the office and keep you feeling like you are up to date. This is much more effective than reading through the hundreds of emails that piled up while you were gone.
These three simple steps should help make the transition to, through and back from vacation a bit more relaxing for those of us who struggle to truly embrace their paid time off. By crafting a strategic auto-reply, designating an out-of-sight space for your phone, and empowering your team to bring you up to speed, you can make the most of your vacation and reap the benefits that time will bring.