How to unplug from work during vacation?

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How to unplug from workThis time of year a lot of people are taking time off work to go on vacation with their loved ones. A few decades ago you didn’t have to worry about customers calling you on your mobile phone at any time of the day or colleagues sending an email with requests. The downside of today’s mobile technology is that it makes it really hard for us to unplug and truly take a break from work since we are constantly connected and available. In order to stay productive throughout the year, I’m convinced that you need to let your brain and body relax and take a break from work. Here are a few steps to help you.

1. Decide on level of availability

The first thing you need to do is decide for yourself how “unplugged” or disconnected you want to be from work when you are on vacation. This varies from person to person and of course also on the type of job you have. Some people want to disconnect completely and tune in to work again when their vacation is over. Others feel more relaxed if they are kept in the loop on urgent or important matters. Decide for yourself how tuned in to work you want to be in order to feel most at ease.

2. Plan ahead

To make sure you don’t get stuck doing work on your vacation you need to plan ahead. What needs to be done during the time you will be away? Try to do as much as you can ahead of time. If you have tasks that need to be performed when you are away, make sure to document these properly. Plan how to handle unforeseen events that might occur when you are away.

3. Outsource tasks to others

In many cases, you can outsource tasks to others. You can agree with a colleague to cover for each other. There are also great virtual assistants that can perform tasks for you (I have a virtual assistant from Brickwork India). You can purchase hours in blocks and you will get a person dedicated to your tasks for that time period. As mentioned previously, proper documentation is crucial in order for someone else to carry out tasks for you.

4. Set the right expectations

Inform your managers, employees, customers and partners on what dates you will be away on vacation and set the right expectations for your availability. If you’ve decided that you only want to be contacted in extreme cases (good or bad) – let them know! Don’t feel ashamed or disloyal for telling them that you won’t be available at all!  You need to take time off in order to re-charge your batteries. This will benefit your employer since you will come back with a fresh mindset and new energy.

5. Configure your email, voicemail and social media accounts

Use technology to help stay away from it (ironic as it might sound).

  • Set an automatic “Out of office” response on your email (learn how in this Quick Tip video: How to set up an automatic email reply in Microsoft Outlook). Include the dates when you are away and contact details to the person who is filling in for you. You can set up different email responses to people inside and outside your organization, this can be helpful since you might want to give more/less/different information depending on who sent the email.
  • Turn off the automatic synchronization of email to your mobile phone. If you have your work email in your phone you might be taken over by curiosity to read email – even if you don’t have to.
  • Record a temporary voice message on your mobile where you inform the caller that you are on vacation (just remember to change it when you’re back).
  • Change the status of your social media accounts to communicate to your contacts that you will be off work.

If nothing else works – go to Digital Detox Camp

Disconnecting from the digital world takes motivation and self-discipline. If you have the motivation but lack self-discipline you can get help by going on a Digital Detox camp. These are tech-free retreats where attendees need to leave their smartphones and gadgets in order to “step back into the natural rhythm of life.” I hope you don’t have to go to that extreme. Instead, I hope you are able to take vacation wherever in the world you enjoy the most with the people you love and that you are able to successfully unplug from work – you need it to increase your business productivity!

Digital detox camp

(If you have difficulties reading this article, you can access the full article in pdf here).