Last weekend, a very close friend got married. At a summer camp in the middle of Maine.
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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.