Even though we’re working more hours and prone to burnout, vacations have become an endangered species. In fact, according to the 11th annual Vacation Confidence Index by Allianz Global Assistance, 36% of Americans took their last vacation over two years ago. More troublesome? 51% have not vacationed in more than a year.
What do we have against vacations? Well, anxiety tends to be a leading culprit. And, no, I’m not talking about your fear of flying. The thought of missing work stresses us out. Besides, we just have too big of a workload to escape from.
Others feel guilty about taking time off. And, some people just don’t think it’s worth it. Since it’s so easy to contact you, it wouldn’t be a real vacation.
Thankfully, there are ways for you to take a real vacation without worrying about work.
Tackle your priorities ASAP.
Have you planned an exotic getaway at least a year n advance? Did you just decide on a last-minute weekend trip? Regardless, before you depart, make sure that you’re priorities have been taken care of.
How you identify your priorities is totally up to you. I would recommend reviewing your calendar and then composing a master list. If you have an appointment scheduled already, you’ll need to reschedule either it or your vacation. As for your list, you can trim it back by using methods like the 80/20 rule or 1-3-5 scheduling rule.
What about the other 50 million things you need to get done? Well, I use a priority matrix. It’s a simple way to guide me in knowing what needs to be scheduled right now. More importantly, it lets me see what I delegate and what needs to get rescheduled. It’s even helpful in identifying the things that get scrapped from my to-do-list.
Once you know what exactly needs to get done before you leave, add these items to your calendar so that you’re only focusing on them.
Don’t burn yourself before your vacation.
I’m all about frontloading what you can. After all, it ensures that you attend to your priorities before leaving. And, it will prevent you from having to catch-up too much when you return.
But, you still need to take breaks to rest and recharge. If I know, I have an upcoming vacation, I might put in a couple more hours of work each day. Personally, I’ll just spend a couple of hours throughout the weekend working. It’s a simple and effective way to get my work done without burning myself out before I even get out of town.
Clean your plate; don’t add more.
Remember the priority matrix I previously discussed? Hopefully, you were able to use that to reduce your workload before your vaca. Another way to achieve this? Keep your schedule as light as possible until your return.
What exactly does that mean? For me, that means not taking on any new assignments until I’m back home. I also cut back on the number of meetings I accept so that I can focus mainly on my work.
In other words, this is just another way to say “no” to any additional time requests that come your way.
Get comfortable being off-the-grid.
We’ve become incredibly dependent on our phones. It’s been found that we touch our phones an astounding 2,617 times a day because of the dopamine release. At the same time, this has also rewired our brains. Case in point, phantom vibration syndrome where you believe that your phone vibrated or rang.
How bad is this phenomenon? Well, one study of college students reported that 90 percent of them experienced this sensation. “It’s almost like a hallucination,” explained Randi Smith, Ph.D., a licensed clinical social worker and associate professor of psychology at the Metropolitan State University of Denver. “There’s a fear that we’re going to miss a text, somebody is trying to reach us, and we’re not being responsive.”
The good news is that through a little training, you can do away with this mindless checking. Even better, you’ll also get more comfortable being glued to your phone. But how? Well, these methods should help get you started:
- Whenever you’re bored, like standing in line at the grocery store, resort the urge to look at your phone. Instead, let your mind wander.
- Leave your phone behind. If you go for a walk, leave your phone at home.
- Cut back on your availability. Block out slots in your calendar where you’re not available to chat, talk, or meet. You should also change settings, like your Slack status, to unavailable.
- Schedule times to check-in to avoid stress or anxiety. I only open my inbox in the morning before work, after lunch, and before I’m done work for the day.
What about while you’re on vacation?
Hopefully, when you’re on vacation, you won’t be attached 24/7 to your phone if you’ve done the above. But, what if you still need help fighting the temptation? You may decide not to pay for WiFi — turn off notifications or limit your app usage. If you’re out and about for the day, then leave your electronics behind.
You should also set-up canned responses and an out-of-office message for your Outlook or Google calendar. Besides preventing your inbox from getting flooded, this will also prevent anyone from scheduling an appointment with you. These messages will also let others know when you’ll return and whom to contact if there’s an emergency.
You can learn to cut back on social media. Some have even gone to the extreme by leaving their charger back at home. Personally, that might not be wise. But, you could only charge your phone to a certain point to reserve battery power.
Share your expectations and itinerary in advance.
Just because you’re taking a timeout from work doesn’t mean that the world will stop spinning. In this case, your business will still need to be operating while you’re away. However, don’t expect your team to go to infinity and not fall behind during your absence. As long as your team is meeting their goals and aren’t missing hard deadlines, you shouldn’t expect more than that.
Additionally, you should assign roles. Primarily, you want to put someone in charge so that they will be the person responsible for overseeing operations or putting out fires. If you have high profile clients or customers, then pass along the contact info to whoever can assist them while you’re elsewhere.
Finally, share your calendar. While not everyone needs to know how you’re spending every minute of your downtime, key players must be kept in the loop. Again, this doesn’t mean they need to know how everything you’re doing. But, your assistant, business partners, or whomever you put in charge should know the dates of your vacation. They should also see the process of handling a crisis and when it’s appropriate to contact you.
Frankie says, “relax.”
Research shows that if you want to return feeling refreshed, then you need to engage in “stress recovery experiences.” Usually, this type of external recovery would be non-work related activities that you enjoy or help you blow off some steam.
Productive vacation ideas would be trying out a yoga class or participating in soothing activities like getting a massage. “Besides just feeling amazing, massage is accepted as part of complementary and integrative medicine, which means that it’s often recommended along with standard treatment for a range of health conditions including anxiety and insomnia related to stress,” explains the Headspace team.
“Massage affects our body’s production and regulation of neurohormones, which influence our behavior and feelings of wellbeing,” they add. “A therapist’s touch tends to elevate our body’s level of dopamine, which affects inspiration, joy and enthusiasm.”
Other options would be spending time outdoors. Whether if it’s going for a hike or sitting on the beach, getting outside reduces stress hormones and alleviates negative emotions. You should also do activities that stimulate your mind, like visiting a museum or learning something new, like taking a cooking class.
Go with the flow.
“When scheduled, leisure tasks feel less free-flowing and more forced — which is what robs them of their utility,” Selin A. Malkocan an associate professor of marketing at Ohio State University and an author of the study “Activity Versus Outcome Maximization in Time Management,” told the Washington Post. In other words, when planning your vacation with too much detail, you’re less likely to enjoy the moment. And too much detail can prevent you from relaxing.
Moreover, it can be stressful and exhausting, sticking to a strict schedule. Instead, leave some room for flexibility and spontaneity so that you can fully immerse yourself in whatever adventures and experiences you encounter.
Have a plan for your return.
Finally, I would think about your re-entry. A lot of us jump right back into the daily grind. That’s understandable since you probably have to catch-up on everything from emails to your to-do-list. But, it’s also stressful and negates whatever good your time away did for you.
When I return from a vacation, I spend the next day easing back into the real world. I don’t focus on cognitively challenging work. Instead, I stay home and fill my calendar with less draining work, like cleaning out my inbox, returning phone calls, and planning the upcoming week.