Summer is almost here and hopefully, vacation plans are in high gear! Yet, what is ideally a time to rest, renew and refresh can become a time filled with stress. Why? Because, though you may be physically away from the office, work may still be taking up precious space in your brain. Projects in progress, never-ending to-do lists, that upcoming difficult client meeting, emails piling up, all vie for your attention.
Here are a few tips to help you detach and truly refresh, physically, mentally, and emotionally.
While it may seem obvious, take the time to identify the key people who need to be aware that you’ll be out. Ensure that each person has what they need to carry on while you’re away. Doing this at least a week prior to leaving allows time to iron out any questions that arise.
Review what is coming up during your first week back in the office. What steps can you take before you leave to prepare for those meetings and deadlines? Upon your return, a quick refresh will be all that’s needed.
Block at least the morning, if not the entire first day back in the office. Doing so, provides time for you to review what has transpired during your vacation and prioritize what truly requires your attention.
- Enable Your ‘Out of Office’ Autoresponder
This simple practice goes a long way toward reducing stress during your vacation. In your ‘out of office’ message, advise people that you will be away and who to contact in your absence. If you work as a solopreneur, advise people of when you will get back to them. This sets a clear expectation that you will not be responding immediately. Most situations can truly wait a few days for your return.
Then, allow yourself to scan your emails, for no longer than 30 minutes, at the beginning or end of each day or so. While this may seem counter to what I’ve suggested above, it gives you the opportunity to scan for important issues and respond with a quick note, if absolutely needed. This is also the chance to delete spam and move emails to folders for review when you return. There is stress relief that comes from knowing that you won’t be returning to an inbox filled with hundreds of messages. The key here is to stick to no more than 30 minutes and then shut off the device.
- Set an Intention
Create a vision of what you will be doing during vacation rather than what you won’t be doing. When you focus on the fact that you won’t be working during vacation, you are actually keeping ‘work’ at the forefront of your thought process. If, instead, you focus on what you will be doing, such as hiking, playing games with your family, seeing new places, experiencing exotic foods, sitting by a firepit toasting marshmallows, relaxing on a beach – whatever excites you about this vacation – your mind will be filled with these activities. Thoughts of work will be less likely to intrude.
Despite your best intentions, thoughts of work may still pop up. If that occurs, have a plan in place for how you will manage those thoughts. Pick up a book, work on a jigsaw puzzle, go for a walk. Select a strategy that works best for you to shift the intrusive thoughts to focus on the non-work-related activity.
Taking time off is shown to significantly increase levels of happiness and overall quality of life while reducing stress. Additionally, research from Project: Time Off, 2016, shows that “if you take 11 or more of your vacation days, you are more than 30% more likely to receive a raise”¹. So, there go those ideas that working harder and taking less time off makes you more successful at work.
Bottom-line: When are you taking your next vacation? Mine is already planned. How about yours?
¹ Shawn Achor and Michelle Gielan. “The Data-Driven Case for Vacation.” HBR.org, 13 July 2016.