Who doesn’t love a good vacation?
You get to unplug, spend time with family and friends, drink fruity drinks (if that’s your thing), and best of all … relax.
Unplugged vacations are important for your mental health and work-life balance.
On top of that, they help you refuel the proverbial tanks of creativity and productivity.
Vacations are the best.
That is … until you come back to the office and you’re met with a million fires to put out, antsy clients blowing up your phone, and maybe even some of your own colleagues giving you the stink-eye because they’ve been so stressed while you were gone.
Before you know it … POOF!
All those relaxing vibes you were intent on carrying over to your regular life have gone up in smoke and you’re left asking yourself, “Was it worth all of THIS?”
But before you toss your unplugged vacation plans into the trash, let’s talk about why, no matter what, you need to take time off.
We All Need Unplugged Vacations
I always love it when people tell me they love their job so much that they don’t mind working 24/7, even while on vacation.
It always forces me to say to myself, “Don’t roll your eyes! Don’t roll your eyes!” while they wax lyrically about it all, when the underlying message is they’re not really present for their family because of work duties and they’re not really present for work because of family duties.
I feel the same way about people saying they don’t need to unplug as I do about the “I’m so busy” badge.
We all need an unplugged vacation. (And we’re ALL busy!)
Our brains are not meant to work 24/7. We’re not machines, as much as I would really like to think I am.
Humans cannot be as productive or as creative if our brains are tired.
We cannot perform at our very best at all hours of every day.
There are benefits from taking just a few days off and truly unplugging.
Not only do you come back rested, recharged, and refreshed, your mind is allowed to wander, which gives you the best opportunity to solve a challenge that’s been hounding you, come up with a creative work idea, or just simply let your brain rest.
Unlimited Time Off
This is one of the reasons I instituted an unlimited paid time off policy inside my organizations a few years ago.
When I tell most people that, they scoff and ask, “What’s the catch?”
There is no catch.
Sure, there are some parameters.
I mean, you can’t take 11 months off and expect to do an entire year’s worth of work in one month.
But sick, bereavement, vacation time, doctor’s appointments, kid transportation, mental health days are: take what you need; just don’t abuse it.
We also have summer hours on Fridays during the summertime where the office closes at noon every Friday.
I know it sounds like I’m a hero, but it’s completely selfish.
I also want to have time off and I LOVE summer hours because it allows me to get long rides in while the rest of the world is working.
And I truly do want my team to do their best.
I want their best work.
They need to be productive.
Time and again I have seen that to get their best out of them, they have to take an unplugged vacation.
And to your benefit, you have the added bonus of seeing where you’re most valuable to your team once you return, you get a better idea of what you can delegate in the future, and you can find areas where you can be more efficient than you’ve been in the past.
But what about your clients, colleagues, and/or co-workers?
How well did they fare while you were away?
Let’s talk about how we can keep everything consistent so we can be out, but nothing falls through the cracks.
Everyone Needs an Unplugged Vacation
When anyone takes time off, you can’t expect them to have all of their tasks and duties wrapped up with a tidy little bow before they leave.
As much as I would personally like to make that happen, it’s just not how it works.
Business doesn’t stop, the world doesn’t stop turning, and your team is running things one less person.
So be kind and anticipate any needs that may arise while you are out.
If you can front-load any of your work before leaving, do so.
Sometimes you might be lucky enough that you can slip away for a week without even being noticed (that’s why I love to take the last two weeks of the year off … NO ONE notices then).
Work ahead on your projects and schedule tasks around your plans.
Now, I’m not saying you should leave big tasks and just expect your co-workers to take care of it while you’re gone.
Definitely do not do that, as tempting as it might be!
Remember … revenge is best served cold.
Lists, Lists, and More Lists
Before you leave, also be sure to hand out a list of projects being covered while on vacation and a list of projects that are being paused to anyone who might be handling your duties.
This gets everyone on the same page of expectations and makes things easier overall … for everyone.
Then make a couple of lists of contacts.
One of these you’ll give to your colleagues so they know who to contact for specific needs, and the other you’ll give to external contacts so they know who to reach on your team.
Next, cover all your bases and more with “handover” meetings with your colleagues.
These meetings are a lifesaver and are an easy way to make sure everyone has the same information so nothing gets lost in the shuffle while you’re relaxing on the beach.
And, if you’re on the agency side, you can also do this with clients.
Make sure your points of contact know the drill while you’re away but reassure them you’re leaving them in good hands.
Last, don’t forget your auto-responder.
This is a perfect opportunity to display your brand voice and let people know you won’t be checking your email for a few days.
Make sure you include the dates you’ll be gone and who they can contact if they need to speak to someone from the organization.
I always like to have a little fun with this, but I know not every organization allows that.
Be as creative as you can within your organization’s guidelines.
And if you need ideas, Laura Petrolino is the master at this.
She always leaves clues that allow people to guess where she is.
Though, now that I think about it, that also encourages them to send her another email …
Vacations Are Supposed to Be Relaxing, Not Scary
I know how stressful it is to get ready to go on vacation.
And how stressful it is to come back from vacation.
That’s why some of us tend to continue to check email and, at the very least, parse out responses to our colleagues.
But I had an incredible experience earlier this year.
For Spring Break this year, I took an unplugged vacation to ride my bike, lay on the beach, and spend hours upon hours in the pool with my mini me.
When I got back, it took me less than two hours to get through my inbox and make sure everything was handled.
That’s less time than it takes during a normal week.
So, while scary and stressful, if you follow these simple guidelines—and allow yourself to give up some control and trust your co-workers—it makes things significantly easier.
How I Personally Manage Unplugged Vacations
If you are a consistent reader of this blog, you’ll know I took last week off.
And I’m in Cleveland at Content Marketing World this week.
In the past, it would have freaked me out to essentially be out for two weeks in a row.
But school hadn’t yet started and camp was finished so my mini me took precedence.
And you know what? It wasn’t that bad!
I gave everyone a six-week notice that I would be out.
That way, content could be created ahead of time and we wouldn’t miss anything.
We all worked together to make sure anything that would need to be accomplished was done so ahead of time—to the best of our abilities.
I let the clients I work with personally know that I’ll be out so we were able to get some priorities out of the way.
And I blessedly moved some of my weekly meetings to the calendars of my very capable and trustworthy colleagues.
Even YOU Can Take An Unplugged Vacation
If you run a business or a team, it may feel like you have less of an ability to take a truly unplugged vacation.
What I think most people forget is we ALL want to take time off—and we’re truly willing to work with people when it’s their turn.
Sure, there are some outliers, such as a client who had a client who kept calling her while she was in labor with her first child. (He didn’t stay a client of hers very long.)
For the most part, though, we are all understanding of time off, especially when given a heads up.
While the fear and stress are very real things, try hard to set them aside and truly take an unplugged vacation.
Your brain, your team, your clients, your partners, your vendors and, most importantly, your family will thank you.
If fear is keeping you from doing that, use some tips from this episode to help you really unplug.
Remember, there’s more to life than work.
And it’s often far more important.
Now It’s Your Turn
How do you take vacations?
Do you believe in unplugging or do you constantly check-in?
The comments are yours …