How to actually unplug and enjoy your vacation (for real this time)
You work too hard. I know because right now you’re looking for tips on how to effectively take time away from the office. You’re thinking…If I take time off, I’ll have too much work to come back to. Who will do my job while I’m gone? Will people miss me or will they realize my role is obsolete?
When you’re on vacation, Personal Time Off (PTO) or out of the office, that’s exactly where you should be. Away from work. In the moment—not shackled to your inbox.
I used to be you. Worried that taking a break would do detriment to my career. Then, I learned why it’s wrong to think that way and how to take a break with confidence.
Half of us overwork
More than half of American workers (55%) let their vacation days expire, according to Project: Time Off. Maybe that doesn’t sound like much to you, but historically, it’s astounding.
Consider the fact that we’re taking nearly a full week less of vacation than we did 20 years ago:
Clearly, we could all use a break. The challenge is actually taking one.
If you’ve finally convinced yourself to take time off, make sure you enjoy it. Here are three classic mistakes people make when trying to take vacation:
1. Lying to your colleagues
When your out-of-office message says you’re NOT available—yet you respond anyway—that’s bad. It creates confusion and anxiety for people trying to contact you. Should they feel bad because they are bothering you on your time off? Or is it business as usual?
The minute you respond to someone while you’re out of the office is the minute your vacation officially ends. Do you really want your time off to end before you even have your first cup of coffee on day one of your vacation? I think not.
2. Lying to your friends and family
When your out-of-office message says you are available—and you are—that’s really bad.
The whole point of taking vacation is to do something other than work. If you’re distracted and responding to office emails or tweets, that means you’re not respecting the time of others. Walk your dog like you used to. Take your kid to the park. Grab brunch with your significant other. Spend time with those you care about. Do anything but check your inbox.
3. Lying to yourself
When your out-of-office message says you are available—but you definitely are NOT—that’s the worst. Now you’re lying to everyone, including yourself.
Telling your team or clients that you’re out but available via email, cell phone and What’s App is begging to be contacted. If you’re hiking mountains in Appalachia, without Wi-Fi or reliable service, don’t pretend like you’re going to be responsive. You’re setting yourself up for failure.
The point of taking time off is to renew and recharge. So do it. You don’t need to go on an epic adventure. Eat Chipotle and watch Netflix in your sweatpants all day. I don’t care. Just set up your out-of-office and don’t open Outlook until you return.
How to win at being out of the office
When your out-of-office message says you’re not available—and you aren’t—that’s great! But it takes confidence and careful planning to really be comfortable removing yourself from your routine.
• First, connect with your team and do your due diligence in making sure your bases will be covered while you’re on vacation.
• Then, give your clients and customers a heads up that you’re taking time off. I bet 100% of them will say, “You deserve it!”
• Finally, write that dreaded out-of-office message.
There are a million creative ways to tell people why you’re taking time off. For inspiration on your out-of-office reply, check out The Art of the Out-of-Office Reply from Emily Gould of The New York Times. It’s brilliant.
The PTO pledge
Old habits die hard. If you’re still mentally struggling with stepping away from work for vacation, I suggest you repeat after me:
I pledge allegiance,
To take vacation,
And entirely stay off email.
And to my colleagues,
For having my back,
That after a break, I’ll be better for all.
I’d love your comments, but don’t expect a swift response. I’m on vacation ‘til Tuesday.
Enjoy your long weekend.
Seriously, enjoy it.