Working from home can make it difficult to take a proper vacation.
It's really tough to enjoy the beach when you're worrying about incoming emails, deadlines and work expectations. We recommend making a clear plan before packing up the luggage.
Use notifications Strategically
While notifications can send off rewarding signals in the brain and ensure that deadlines are met, they are not helpful to unwind, relax and spend time with family or friends.
Turn off as many notifications as possible: text messages, social media alerts, and even incoming phone calls.
If you're with a group on your vacation, and on the go, you may opt to set specific ringtones and text tones for family members, just in case there's an emergency (and yes, running out of towels and nachos may classify as an emergency).
A smartphone addiction study by the London School of Economics and Political Science showed that only 11% of phone interaction was prompted by a notification. With that in mind, use your notifications strategically. If you're worried about missing a call from your boss, set up a loud and silly ringtone just for their phone number. Then put your phone down with confidence; if the call comes, you'll hear it!
Communicate with your family or vacation group about expectations for phones at the beginning of the trip!
Skip the Auto-Responder
Auto-responders were a great feature in previous decades, but now, with the overload in email inboxes everywhere, they can cause more frustration than assurance.
If your clients, customers or colleagues have been trained to expect an immediate response to every email, you may need to rely on the out-of-office reply. If this is you, include these elements in your auto-responder:
On a technical level, the best reason to skip the auto-responder is that it is likely to land in the Spam folder. Unfortunately, once your email goes to Spam, there's a higher chance that your next custom-tailored message will also go to Spam. Use automated messages with extreme caution!
Designate one hour each business day to check messages, voicemail and emails
Tim Ferriss is the pioneer of changing email habits to increase productivity and decrease work overwhelm. Ferriss suggests, on typical work days, checking email at 11am and 4pm to break out of the read/reply/receive cycle that makes it impossible to accomplish typical workday tasks.
On your vacation, just pick one hour that you'll check in and put out any fires. If you're on a different timezone than usual, take advantage of the shift to your usual schedule to find the sweet spot.
Responding in the late afternoon and evening will reduce immediate replies, but gives colleagues the whole next day to address any tasks you have provided.
Emailing in the morning is not recommended, but that may be a good time for making quick phone calls.
Look for good times when your family or group is taking some down time and doesn't need your attention! Hit the coffee shop, set a timer, handle urgent items, and then get back to having fun!
Coordinate with a colleague to assist with emergencies
Rather than using an auto-responder that tells people who to contact in an emergency, we prefer coordinating a plan with this colleague prior to your vacation.
Depending on your workplace's rules, you may be able to simply share access with your email account with a trusted colleague. You can either give them the reins and let them read emails and look for emergencies, or create a folder and move items to that folder for their review and reply.
Review expectations and look for a system that would be willing to reciprocate the next time they're out of the office!
Alert major clients and partners to your upcoming absence, and be proactive on their upcoming projects
If you're in the middle of a big project, or have a client who must be impressed at all costs, notify them that you will be away. Clarify how the project is resuming without you, or how you will be checking in from the road. Over-communicate and demonstrate that the project and the client is extremely important, no matter where your flip flops may take you!
We are here to assist you--on or off vacation!
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