Avoid Work Time Wasters And Truly Log Off on Vacation

I love a good vacation. An exotic locale. A beach read. No responsibility other than to restore and relax. Doesn’t that sound blissful? Too bad you brought your laptop along…

At work, time thieves are everywhere. Those pesky time wasters – meetings, email, distractions – that are lurking in wait for you to lose sight of your own priorities and start riding the wave of other people’s. Sadly, they often stow away on vacations too. Here’s how to thwart the leisure time thieves before they undo all the good that comes from a real break.

Plan in advance

We seem to be much better at booking hotels and tourist attractions than planning our work calendars to accommodate meaningful time off. Two to three weeks prior to your vacation, you should be anticipating where your major pieces of work will be and what needs to happen while you are away. This enables you to renegotiate deadlines, hand-off the work to someone else temporarily, or sprint to get it done in advance of your departure.

Find a buddy

Returning from a vacation can be disorienting. Where to even begin? It will be less so if someone is ready to reorient you to all the moves that your moving parts made while you were away. I ask my direct reports to send me a “While you were away” update via email on the workday before my return. That allows me to catch up at my leisure – sometimes on the flight home – and then our reorientation conversations can be brief and focused.

State your boundaries

The out-of-office message is your best friend while you’re on vacation. Be as specific as possible about who to contact in your stead. I firmly state that I will not be checking email but suggest that they text me in the event of something truly urgent. If you have empowered your team to make decisions while you are away, you can minimize the number of urgent reach-outs you receive.

Set an example

It’s become a very unhealthy norm, particularly for senior executives, to forfeit a portion of every vacation day by checking in or attending a time-sensitive meeting. Here’s the problem: the signal those behaviors send is that no one has permission to fully check out while they are out. But that defeats the whole purpose of vacation – to recharge your batteries by not thinking about the day-to-day.

If you just can’t stand to truly disconnect, at least be stealth about it. You can monitor email discussions, but don’t participate. Or stay connected to only one person who will keep you abreast of what’s happening in your absence.