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Gini Dietrich

Five Tips for Taking an Unplugged Vacation

By: Gini Dietrich | August 27, 2012 | 
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Last weekend, a very close friend got married. At a summer camp in the middle of Maine.

Seriously.

It was summer camp as you experienced as a kid, but with adult beverages. And, just like you experienced as a kid, there were no phone calls or emails home. There was no service except in one spot in the middle of the camp, where everyone could see you on your phone. It was as if they’d prepared to massively embarrass those of us who needed to get our fix.

Mr. D and I decided to extend our stay a few days and drove to the coast, where there was cell phone service, but I decided to turn off the email on my phone (and iPad) for three whole days. In fact, the iPhone makes it super easy to unplug. You just switch the mail icon to “off” in the settings and voila! No more email.

I even set expectations here that I was on vacation and not responding to comments – a feat in and of itself!

I have to admit I cheated a little bit. I had my laptop with me so I did scan email and blog comments once a day (very quickly) to be sure there wasn’t an emergency. As it turned out, there was only one thing that was kind of important, but it wouldn’t have been the end of the world had it waited until Thursday, when I got home.

But there were a couple of things that elevated my blood pressure and, because my out of office clearly stated I was not checking email, I decided to let them sit (which, as it turns out, gives you time to stew and think before you respond).

Three days vacation was not enough, but it did allow this completely connected, addicted entrepreneur to take baby steps.

Long Live Vacation

When I got home, I read an article in Fast Company called, “Traditional Vacation is Dead. Long Live Vacation.”

In it the author, an entrepreneur, suggests three ways to take two weeks (!!) vacation without things falling apart at home. One of those suggestions is to block off a few hours each day to work.

I’m not sure I agree with that…as I experienced, just checking email briefly took my focus away from having time off and I wasn’t fully present because I was stewing on a couple of items.

But, if you haven’t yet taken your summer vacation or are planning something for this autumn or winter, there are some very easy ways to make sure you have uninterrupted time off while the business (or your job) still continues to tick.

Five Tips for Taking an Unplugged Vacation

  1. Start communicating months in advance. Most of us plan our vacations months in advance. Start telling people as soon as it’s booked. Set expectations with clients. Work internally to prepare. And keep the dates front and center so everyone is prepared. If you are a soloproneur, I think you’ll be surprised how willing clients are to let you have the time off, if there is time to work ahead so balls don’t get dropped. And, if you don’t get paid unless you work, you’d better start working some extra hours to build up the vacation fund that allows you to still receive a paycheck while you’re out.
  2. Train someone to take your spot. All of us need someone to fill our spots. This is scary for some because we like to feel like we’re indispensable, but training someone to fill in for you while you’re gone gives you the peace of mind you need to fully be on vacation. No one minds helping you out because they know you’re going to be there for them when it’s their turn.
  3. Allow re-entry time when you get home. This is one I use when I travel for work – Patti Knight typically keeps the day after a long business trip free of meetings. It allows me to reconnect with my team, get through emails, and actually do some work. If your vacation begins on Friday, as soon as you’re finished working, and goes until midnight on Sunday, you won’t have time to decompress before going back to work.
  4. Turn the email off completely. I don’t know how it works on Android, but the iPhone makes it super easy to turn off the email. Just switch the mail icon to “off” in settings and you’re good to go.
  5. Don’t answer your phone. Because you’ve taken care in steps one and two, you likely won’t get any phone calls. But, if you do, don’t answer it. It’s unlikely there is a true emergency; rather someone just forgot. If it truly is an emergency, they’ll leave you a message to the effect and you can quickly return the call.

You could, of course, not take your phone or iPad or laptop on your trips, but that might be going a little too far. For me, my Apple devices serve also as my camera, my gaming, my reading, my writing, my social networking, and more.

A version of this first appeared in my weekly Crain’s column.

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, a Chicago-based integrated marketing communications firm. She is the lead blogger here at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. She is the co-author of Marketing in the Round and co-host of Inside PR. Her second book, Spin Sucks, is available now.

96 comments
3HatsComm
3HatsComm

I've written about this - there's a difference in being 'unplugged' and being completely offline. I plan travel (love TripIt), book activities, coordinate schedules via my iToy... going Internet dark, not sure it'd work unless it's some cabin in the woods thing. (But then you'd want to call for help when chainsaw killer zombie ghost demon worshippers show up, right? ;-) Did you see that movie, funnier than it was scary.) I don't spend a lot of personal time online playing on FB and Pinterest (for yes, I finally signed up) or reading for fun. So vacation is a chance to do that. Like you said, we also use our tech to play, to read, for fun.

 

IDK think it comes down to prior planning - like @Shonali and others said about notifying people, getting blog ready, etc. - and our personalities. Right now, I still have a dumbphone (thinking of upgrading) so I don't have the constant bombardment/temptation to be so connected; also not that busy at the moment. I have no issues not checking social sites, missing calls and emails for a few hours or even a day; but days/weeks on end? No. It's the 'not knowing' that gets me; once I do that 10 minute check in the morning or evening, know things are ok - I can relax and enjoy my vacay all the more. FWIW.

rachaelseda
rachaelseda

Loved your vacation pictures! I'm glad you were able to relax (a little :) )!

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

Oh you flew overhead and didn't even say hello - harumph!

T60Productions
T60Productions

Tony: going to unplug for my 40th birthday celebration vacation in a couple months. Tips received... appreciated... and will be put into practice. :-)

JayDolan
JayDolan

I made the decision earlier this year that there is no email so important that someone cannot call me. I then made it so I only get email on my phone when I consciously check the app. This was one of the best decisions I've made in the past year.

 

I'm not that important int he grand scheme of things. There is no email that needs me to drop everything on a weekend or weeknight. We will all be happier if we stop expecting everyone to always be available.

Latest blog post: This week

KevinVandever
KevinVandever

Business email is shut off on iPad and iPhone during vacations and even some weekends (depends on the what's happening). Those who would need to contact me know to call me if there is something that requires my attention while I'm gone. A few have cheated and texted me. I made examples of them.

Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes
Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes

I have gotten pretty darn good at ignoring email but I haven't figured out how to completely disconnect yet. I like writing far too much and I do that almost exclusively on my laptop so...

 

And the really sad thing is that I have become a Words with Friends Junkie. I have like 16 games going on so when I take a break I usually poke my head in to take care of my turn.

 

But I have found that turning off the notifications on my Droid has been wonderful. It has made life much easier and I don't have the same Pavlovian response/need to check in as I used to.

Hajra
Hajra

When I went to India for a friend's wedding; that is the only pact I had with her - totally unplug from everything. But then, I ain't all that popular and people don't notice when I go missing! But yes, good tips here. I just get tempted every time; so my friend just hid my mobile on the big day!

Carmelo
Carmelo

Very proud of you Gini. It can also depend on just how many media tentacles have wormed their way into your life. Will flipping off the iPhone (ha!) be enough? Or are there a half dozen other insidious connectors still hanging on?

 

But, Gini, you have great people working for, with and around you. They’re kind of like a whole ‘nuther set of tentacles supporting you. With that going for you it’s so much easier to unplug. And as you said in your comment earlier, it’s amazing how time off actually increases your value. Why, your gravatar even looks better! ;-)

 

Welcome back!

allenmireles
allenmireles

There's no right way to do this, because each of us handles separation-from-our-tech-and business-anxiety differently but I would be the first to say that taking time off is essential. Sort of the human version of rebooting.Your tips are valuable for two reasons: they help us understand the hows of unplugging and getting away and they provide some sort of permission to do so. I believe in vacation and in unplugging (even though I was less successful this summer than in the past). ;)

bdorman264
bdorman264

For the business side, I would like to be able to check my phone once a day just to make sure nothing is blowing up. The reality is, there is rarely anything so catastrophic that my team can't handle in my absence.

 

Now social is a whole different ballgame; since I am so incredibly popular now I would really hate to disappoint my audience so they didn't have some kind of access to me............doh.........I could be gone a month before someone might say 'whatever happened to.........'

 

The social part of me 'wants' to stay connected. Some down time is good and I'm actually doing a pretty good job of keeping the phone in my pocket (on vibrate of course) and not even taking it out when I'm with people. 

 

A much bigger challenge for you I'm sure however; thanks for sharing your method. 

Lisa Gerber
Lisa Gerber

I also find just checking in once a day gives you peace of mind, so you CAN relax on vacation. If I were to completely unplug, I think I'd worry about things hitting the fan. A quick check to see all is well, and you can carry on!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

 @allenmireles You were less successful and that's why I gave you a hard time about it. I really believe human beings can only take so much, and the only way to recharge is to unplug. That's why I stopped working weekends. I'm MUCH more productive this year...and it's because I can no longer say, "Oh I'll just that this weekend." I have to get it done during normal business hours.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

 @Lisa Gerber See, I'm totally different. When I did cheat last week, there were two emails that actually made me angry. And then I was so focused on that, Kelly had to offer me booze at 10 a.m. just to bring my blood pressure back to normal. After that, I promised I wouldn't cheat and look.

Hajra
Hajra

 @ginidietrich It was a Indian - Hindu wedding ; the ceremonies are for over three days! So, technically it is a three day wedding; so I was "allowed" photos for the first two days (with time limits!) but when the "mega" event took place, no phones....

Carmelo
Carmelo

 @ginidietrich Ahhh, yes. But that was just part of the fun of your vacation! We're still human beings who connect! :-)

bdorman264
bdorman264

 @ginidietrich  @allenmireles And it was a sad death indeed; 3 whole days without Facebook and little did she know she had her re-charger in her bag the whole time............:(

lauraclick
lauraclick

 @ginidietrich  @Lisa Gerber I'm the SAME way. Even in my old job, I had to really force myself not to look at emails out of the office because I would just start to get frustrated when I read some of them. I just needed to go cold turkey!