Vacations, personal time—when you’re away from work, you need to disconnect. But most of us find it challenging to fully go off the grid whenever we leave the office. We’ve left work in-progress or questions unanswered. But if you disconnect in the right way, you can enjoy your time away without fretting about what you’ve left on your desk. Here are some tips to keep in mind before you head out, and while you’re gone!
The Prep: Before You Go
Assess what’s feasible. We all have different levels of responsibility, and some jobs demand more interactivity with colleagues and clients than others. So know before you go exactly what level of communication is required, and/or what is possible for you when you’re away. Whether it’s going completely off the radar, or checking in every other day.
Plan ahead. Whether you’re taking a few weeks off or just a day, be sure to plan ahead. Set and manage expectations among your clients and colleagues. Tell your team how you can be reached, which devices you’ll have with you (more on this below) and set specific hours you will be reachable or responding to work-related communication.
Enable your team. It’s great if you can finish up projects on your own before you go, but the magic word here is DELEGATE. Hand off anything you can to the team in advance of heading out the door. Start preparing and delegating a few weeks ahead of time so you don’t surprise anyone. And be sure they are empowered and have the knowledge needed to make things happen in your absence.
Avoid overcommitment. If you’re the type to often take on extra work, the week before you leave is not the time to do it. Start the process of ‘ramping down’ as soon as a few weeks ahead of any long trip. That means avoiding kicking off anything complex or brand new right before you head out. If you can’t avoid it, just make sure everyone is aware of your upcoming absence, to set expectations accordingly. That way you don’t feel completely overwhelmed the day you leave.
Know your peak hours. If totally disconnecting isn’t an option for you while you’re out, work around your peak hours. Are you a night owl? An early morning person? You’re going to get much more done if you can focus your time during those peak hours. Communicate those hours to the team so they know how and when to reach you, and schedule work tasks to happen only during that part of the day.
Disconnecting in 3..2..1..
Fully unplug. if you’ve prepped your team appropriately, you should feel no guilt or anxiety about putting your smartphone down. We all get the urge to check messages and email, at the pool, on a boat, on a hike, but fight that temptation. In the end it’ll help you be more productive when you get back and avoid longer-term burnout.
Set up your inbox. A detailed out-of-office message is a great safeguard because even after all that preparation to leave, people forget the details. Note the dates of your absence, and that you will not review messages until you return—and then don’t. If there’s something you truly can’t walk away from, set up a filter or rule to send messages from your boss or key clients through to you immediately, and filter all other messages to a review folder to look at when you return.
Pack only personal devices. Leave the work laptop at home. It’s harder to feel guilty about not checking work messages on your personal phone and tablet. And in urgent times, you can still use these devices to connect with your team back in the office. A quick download of the GoToMeeting app for iOS or Android will have you connected in minutes.
Be ready in case of emergency. Identify one member of your team as the one person who can reach you “ICE” . Make sure you are clear on what constitutes as an urgent matter, and what can wait until you get back, so the interruptions are truly necessary. Let them know the best times to contact you too. Then, be readily available during those times for an emergency screen-sharing session or conference call during those times.
Use recording as your proxy. Don’t connect remotely from a tropical paradise to attend a meeting if you truly don’t have to. Your colleagues can record the meeting, and any further context or notes, to catch you up when you return. You won’t miss a beat!
Reflect on the work you’ve done. Okay, this may sound contradictory… but a relaxing vacation is the perfect time for a little self-reflection. Spend some time reflecting back on the work you’ve accomplished, and what really drives you. Bring a notebook and do some journaling about your year, and set your goals for the future. Identify the ways you really add value and what you love most about work. This will help you feel refreshed and reset when you return.