jen spencer coaches

How to take a REAL work vacation

August is a big vacation month. It’s hot here in Austin, Texas, which is why I am excited to go to Colorado this month. It’s 71 at noon vs. 112, thank you very much.

I was sharing my plans with my friend and colleague Maura Thomas, a productivity expert who always keeps me in line when we start talking about time management. She has some really useful articles on how to take a vacation that I’ve shared below.

So howTropical beach landscape do you make your next vacation be about really vacationing vs. managing your absence from the office?

For most busy professionals, taking full advantage of time away means turning off the subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) beckoning calls of our devices, work lives, plans, teams, etc.

Maura recommends turning off email. Completely. For the whole vacation.

I can already hear your protests about why this would be impossible, and I’m going to push back.

‘My team can’t manage when we have a big crisis.’

  • Clarify what is a true crisis.
  • Empower and educate your team to get off the teat by helping them fill their gaps.
  • Don’t have a team? Bring your boss and key stakeholders into the conversation to help figure out who will cover the timely work you won’t be able to respond to.

‘I don’t want to come back to thousands of emails.’

  • You are not getting the best of your brain when it’s running on low levels of energy. And stress with no significant breaks taps your brain out. So you choose: Do you want to come back from vacation with an empty email box or a repaired brain? (Since you won’t be reading email, you do have to tell people how to reach you in an emergency. Phone? Text?)

‘I’m a one-person show, I can’t shut down.’

  • Hire someone or ask a trusted colleague (perhaps in the same position you are in) to check your email daily and contact you — NOT through email — if there is something urgent like a new business opp that can’t wait or a client emergency. Just be sure to define what qualifies as urgent before you go.

‘No email?! But I’m addicted to it. I can’t stop checking my phone when I’m not at the office. I might miss something!’

  • Step away from the phone.
  • So you don’t have to go cold turkey when your vacation starts, start building up your resistance before you go. Work on being present in a conversation for 30 minutes. Having this “practice” time will work out the kinks with your own impulses and those of your team.
  • You aren’t the only one who experiences this! Learn how to get your dopamine hits through means other than email.

You are a knowledge worker, and how well you do at your job depends on how well your brain works. So, give your brain a rest. Fill back up. It’s the best thing you can do for yourself and your career.

Work Life Better.

Extra Resources from Maura Thomas on Attention Management + Vacations:

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