Vacation is great in theory. In practice, many of us find ourselves doing work, thinking about work, or answering emails. That’s if we even manage to take time off.
Last year, 41 percent of Americans didn’t even take a day for themselves, according to travel site Skift. Approximately 429 million vacation days go unused each year.
But vacations are an essential break from the daily grind. People need sufficient down time on a daily basis to maintain high performance, and they need to take all their annual vacation time.
When you never unplug, you lose touch with yourself and what’s important to you, and your broader, wiser perspective—and that’s when burnout starts to set in.
Here’s how to go on vacation and enjoy it, too.
Pen—Don’t Pencil—In Your Vacation
Scheduling a vacation can seem unthinkable when you’re too busy to check the weather, let alone schedule plane and hotel fares.
But once you take the time to look at your calendar, figure out when your work cycle is on the ebb, coordinate the dates with your coworkers, and get your boss’s approval—buy your tickets right away and tell your boss that you did so.
If you put money down, you and your boss are less likely to turn back or forget those dates are blocked out for you to be out of the office.
Pay It Forward
To get ahead enough to be away for several days, you may have to put in some long nights or working weekends. It may seem a daunting price to pay, but you won’t regret it once you’re over the hump.
If you’re worried about work piling up while you’re gone—or if you simply have too much to do before you leave—consider delegating some of it.
Find colleagues you have helped or for whom you can return the favor when they go on vacation. Or you could make this an opportunity for someone junior who reports to you and give her first crack at something you would normally handle.
So you can go with an unencumbered conscience, make sure you do these three things before you leave:
- Send a status update to your boss and any people who’ll be covering for you, so they know where everything stands.
- Create a backup plan for anything that might suck you back into work if it goes wrong, and share it with everyone who is affected by it.
- Tell your team how accessible you’ll be by phone while you’re away and when you’ll be checking email (see below), and inform everyone outside the company of this via your outgoing voicemail message and automatic vacation email reply.
The Email Exception
Ideally, you won’t open your email at all when on vacation, but let’s face it: It gives us peace of mind to know that things are under control, so likely you’re going to check in every now and then. The key is to make it a minimal number of times and days … and then stick to that schedule.
If you have to check your email, do it only twice a day, at a set time in the morning and in the afternoon, and never respond unless it’s a true emergency.
Reboot with Mini-Breaks Every Day
A real getaway with a change of scenery is ideal if you can swing it, but equally important are intermittent recovery opportunities during the day. To be fully creative, we need to regular recovery times.
Sustainable high-performance expert Tony Schwarz says, “The most effective way to operate at work is like a sprinter—working with single-minded focus for periods of no longer than 90 minutes, and then taking a break. That way when you’re working, you’re really working, and when you’re recovering, you’re truly refueling the tank.”
Aim for a daily practice of 10 minutes of “me time,” when you disconnect from technology and connect with yourself.
Women tend to discover their path as they go along, rather than follow a prescribed long-term plan, and they can only know what the next right thing for them is if they take the time to breathe and listen inside to their deeper longings.
(First appeared in the online magazine: BusinessWoman)