I just got back from vacation and was so proud of myself that I only looked at my computer a few times during the week. As crazy and neurotic as that sounds, it is major progress! I know I am a workaholic. Being called a “workaholic” is not a compliment, but I would be lying if I didn’t say the idea of missing something important, or having a huge laundry list of things to do when I get back from vacation, makes me crazy.
The workaholic in all of us thrives on activity. We need it. We need to keep busy; we need a project. Vacations are supposed to be a suspension of work. Vacations are for resting and having fun, not for working. Vacation is when you hit the break and shift your mind away from work so you can recharge your internal batteries and rejuvenate. For some reason many of us can’t let go of work and give up control.
But honestly, how can you go on vacation and leave behind your job, your purpose? There is so much stuff that needs to be done – and of course you need to be involved with every email, every decision, everything – NOT!
The truth is that the inability to detach from work may initially appear in increased productivity (there will be no bottlenecks when you’re out of the office, you get stuff done!), but us workaholics aren’t considering the long term. Your success at work depends on consistency over time, not weeks, not days, not on vacation. Over time your productivity actually decreases due to the stress of being on all the time. Not to mention it can take a cumulative effect on your stress levels and health!
Harvard Business Review just published a fascinating article titled, “The Data Driven Case for Vacation,” which talks about the value of a little downtime. The article includes new research by US Travel Association and Project: Time Off shows that for the past fifteen years, American workers have been taking less and less vacation. And, from their data analysis it seems that this trend just seems to be getting worse. Especially compared to Europeans who regularly get as much as six weeks paid vacation off a year. Yup, you heard that right – six weeks!
With technology like smartphones and laptops the ability to work from anywhere, anytime is dangerously easy. The average person looks at their phone 46 times a day, so it’s safe to assume that the impulse to check your work email while on vacation is a hard habit to kick. There is no denying that there’s an unhealthy expectation that people should be available during evenings, weekends and even vacations. The line between working work and leisure is continuing to become blurred. Heck, is there even a line anymore? As the US Travel Association and Project: Time Off report puts it perfectly when it says, “Now is the time to decide whether vacation time will become a casualty of the new working world or if we take action and win back America’s Lost Week.”
So down with the workaholics! We know that vacations (or staycations) are vital to both our mental health and business success. Now is the time to embrace some time off as a human necessity, since taking time off without the demands of work is one of the greatest joys in life. Bad habits are hard to break. If you are like me and the thought of being offline and detached from work for over 24 hours makes your head spin, here are a few tips to help you unplug and relax.
- Set up a meeting with your team to review point of contact information, deadlines and checklists before you head out of town. By ensuring your team has all the details to cover for you will give you a piece of mind and show them that you trust and believe they can get the job done in your absence.
- Take time away from your screens (phone, computer, tablet, TV… all of it!). The first day will be awful, but I promise it gets easier over time. Try and get through the first twenty minutes of your day without looking at your phone. Wake up, grab a bite to eat, read the news and then grab you phone. Or, leave you phone back in the hotel room when you run out for a few hours. You would be amazed at how much more focused and alert you are without the distracting device!
- If you can’t completely shut down from work. Set a designated time (or times but limit it) to check into work, email and voicemails. It is literally impossible for me to not check-in with work for at least a few minutes while I’m out of the office. So, I decided to set some boundaries. I designate a 15-minute time slot in the morning and the evening to check email and respond to important requests. I cannot emphasize important requests enough. Avoid getting involved in non-urgent matters, you can handle them when you get back into the office.
- Don’t forget to set up your auto-reply email. This may seem super simple, but it’s often overlooked. It takes only a minute and lets everyone know when to expect a response.
- Go outdoors! We spend way too much time indoors and in front of our screens. Vacations are the time to get outside and spend some time with nature. Breathe in the fresh air, soak up the sun and enjoy the well-deserved time off away from reality.
THE MOST IMPORTANT TIP OF ALL: CONFESS!
If you’re a workaholic that can’t stop working over weekends, holidays and vacation – let your team know or you run the risk of driving them crazy. Actions speak louder than words, and being a workaholic might send the wrong impression. Just because you’re always working, doesn’t mean you expect them to be working 24/7. If your team sees you working on vacation, it might make them think you don’t trust or that you’re not confident they can manage without you. It also gives off the vibe that you expect them to do the same. Be open and honest about your crazy workaholic tendencies, and let them know you’re making a conscious effort to let it go!