Are You Ever Truly on Vacation?

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In today’s technological age, many people are tied in to some sort of social connection thanks to things like smartphones and tablets. In many ways these items are a true blessing in times of need, for example when you are job seeking and wish to always be available. However, when you are employed, these items can take on a life of their own, and always being available can feel like a bad thing.


Think back as little as fifteen to twenty years ago. Mobile devices were not as common, and were limited to just making calls. Computers were bulky, including laptops, and internet speeds were limited for most people to a 14400 baud rate modem speed. Wi-fi didn't exist. In order to stay in touch with people, you had to make a phone call and hope they were around to answer. Nowadays, if we call someone and they do not answer, we get irritated. People carry mobile devices in their pockets, and they are almost always available. If someone at work needs you, chances are they’ll reach you fairly easily – even while you are on vacation.

People live in a “connected” world, with constant updates and connections to blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and other media. These services are almost an addiction to many people, and so they are never really “disconnected.” Even when on vacation, if you are needed by your employer, you are usually just an email, text, or phone call away. This has become the normal way of things, so much so that people are rarely truly on vacation, and at the drop of a hat become telecommuters.

I recently read an article on another blog that had a lot of useful information on not only the need to disconnect, but some ideas on how to do it. I wish to give a brief overview of some of the key elements that jumped out at me.

Day Blocking: The idea is, in preparation for your time off, block out two days before and one day after your scheduled time off, and mark them as days that you will not schedule any new projects, meetings, or anything that will cause you to leave for your vacation as a stressed out mess, or that causes your return from vacation to be a high-gear stress-fest. The two days before should be a lighter work load, putting things in order and finishing up any projects before you leave, and the day you return should be a reassessment of what now needs done, and not a day that hits you in the face when you walk in, and makes you forget your vacation almost immediately. Obviously this is not always something that can be accomplished for every career field, but the idea is a good one when you can exercise it.

Email Bankruptcy: This one I like! When going on vacation, set your “out of office” reply message to plainly state you are out, and give instructions on how to contact the person covering you. Also, work the response to let them know when you will return, and that they will need to contact you at that point. Then, upon returning from vacation, delete all messages that came in while you were gone, and start off fresh. The stress of coming back to a hundred emails is to be avoided. Also, commit to ignoring any emails that come in while on vacation (since most people get them on their phone), and do not try to stay on top of those things. Make sure you set your away message so that in case of a real emergency, someone will contact you in a different way than typical email – then turn off your email access and relax. Again, not every job will allow you do this, but if yours does, you should take advantage.

We need to reconnect to the idea of being disconnected in order to unwind and de-stress while on vacation. It is great for mental, emotional and physical health, and is a dying art in this fast-paced technological world we live in. Share your thoughts on the topic below.

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