How to Actually Unplug on Vacation

Nabila Ikram
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Imagine taking a full, invigorating breath of fresh air on a beautiful sunny beach, then….you get pinged.

When we’re on vacation, we want to immerse ourselves in the experience. Our heart flutters with excitement and we look forward to an enjoyable, stress-free trip away from the daily grind.

But for many of us, in today’s round-the clock working lifestyle, we may feel obliged to constantly check emails while we’re on that sunny beach. Now you may say, what’s wrong with staying productive on vacation? Better to stay on top of it so you don’t come back to heaps of work, right? That sounds fair enough, but it defeats the purpose of a vacation. Studies show that rest and breaks from work are necessary for proper mental, emotional, and physical health. And not taking a break once in a while does affect your productivity. Studies show more than half of Americans don’t use all their vacation days. More disturbing, 30% and 50% of men and women, respectively, who didn’t take vacations are more likely to have a heart attack.

However, it is true, that in some situations, avoiding work 100% while on vacation is simply not possible. In any case, there are steps you can take to minimize your work as much as possible while you’re on your getaway. Below are five steps that can help you relax and re-energize on your vacation so that you can come back to work fully refreshed and ready for work.

Coordinate with coworkers.

Inform your colleagues beforehand of the exact duration of your vacation. Let them know what tasks you may have and see if anyone would be available to take over some of those tasks during your leave. If possible, return the favor when they go on vacation, or at least give them a gift of appreciation after you return.

Set up an email vacation responder.

For anyone who may contact you while you’re are gone, set up an email vacation responder that details the exact dates you will be out of the office and any alternative people or contact information that they can reach out to instead.

Turn off app notifications (or remove the apps altogether).

Now that you’ve done the groundwork to minimize external factors while you’re away, the next step is to focus on your own self-discipline. When we’ve been working so hard and so regularly, it can be hard to have the discipline to pull ourselves away from work and the screen. To help with that, turn off your notifications. Better yet, delete the apps altogether and reinstall them when you return.

Set aside 15 minutes each day to take a quick glance.

If you have one of those jobs where it’s impossible to unplug 100%, or you are struggling with the self-discipline to unplug and it’s interfering with you being able to enjoy your time, then dedicate 15 minutes each day for work. Take a look at your emails and work on any tasks absolutely necessary. Be strict on time, though, otherwise 15 minutes can easily turn to 30 or more.

Make a list of things you can do aside from work or looking at your screen. 

Reality is that we’re so plugged in that even if we have the motivation and opportunity to unplug, we’re often ­­­­at a loss as to what we can do with our new found time. We may start to get bored and start reaching for that phone again to scroll our news feed. To avoid that from happening and to fully take advantage of the moment, an interesting idea is to make a list beforehand of things you can do, such as reading, walking, or painting. When you start feeling that itch to plug in, bring out your list and pick something to do. Engaging in something non-work and non-tech related is a great idea even when you’re not on vacation and just need to decompress after work.

So next time you’re planning on taking a vacation, to truly reap the benefits, make sure you take the steps necessary to unplug 100%, or as much as you can, during your time away- and not get pinged!



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