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5 Strategies to disconnect during vacation

And 3 good reasons why you should be doing so

I returned from a week of vacation today and it feels it's been a month since I left. I feel rested, more energized and motivated to work.

Since I set up my out of office alert on a Friday afternoon until I returned to work on a Monday morning I disconnected completely from work. I usually travel internationally for vacation and, as I neither carry my work computer with me, nor pay for international roaming, it's hard to do any sort of work.

This time I received visitors from Brazil, so I stayed in California. I did a road trip for some days and spent the rest of the time at home, so it would be easy to stay connected and available for work. But I decided not to.

Before getting to the how to disconnect, let's talk about why you should disconnect during vacation:

  • You deserve a break and it will benefit your career: There are many researches that prove that periodical breaks for resting and engaging in different activities increase your productivity at work.

  • Your family/loved ones deserve to spend quality time with you: The technology has shorten distances and provided the flexibility to work remotely has also negatively affected personal relationships. Vacation is a great opportunity to disconnect from the virtual world and be fully present with people that are important in your life.

  • Your subordinate will benefit from having additional responsibilities: I had the best opportunity to develop leadership skills in the beginning of my career, when my manager went on vacation for 2 weeks and trusted me to be his substitute. I was just promoted to supervisor of the team some weeks before his vacation, and my direct supervisor left the company around the same time. This was a great opportunity to develop a lot, and at a fast pace. I managed 3 strategic projects that came up during my manager's time off and I earned the trust from the team, clients, my senior manager and executives with whom I worked with. Whenever I take vacations and I handover my projects to subordinate and co-workers, I believe it's a great opportunity for them to step outside of their comfort zone and develop new skills.

Now let's talk about how you can disconnect during vacation:

  • Make sure your work can be done by someone else. If the work cannot wait until your return, plan ahead and do a proper handover to a co-worker prior to your vacation. I very often work long hours a week or so before leaving, so I can get a lot done and ensure my backup will have the required resources to do my work when I am not around. I also make it clear that I will not be checking emails, and that they should reach out to me only in case of extreme urgency.

  • Become the example for your team. Very often I receive real time responses from people who are out of office on matters that are not urgent, or do not required their intervention. This sets up the standard for the team, that will think they should behave the same way even if the manager says they should disconnect. If you are a leader, even if you don't want to enjoy your vacation, resist to reply to all to emails that do not require your immediate action, so your team can have better work-life balance. This will improve their work satisfaction and performance and decrease attrition rates.

  • Don't take your work computer with you. If you stay local or if you travel, stay away from your work computer. If something urgent happens, you should be able to guide your substitute to solve it or solve it yourself over the phone. If you open your computer, it will be hard to stay away from doing the work yourself and and reply to emails. Going back to vacation mode again will be a real challenge.

  • Remove the email notifications from your phone. This was key to keep me disconnected during my vacation last week. I knew I couldn't resist to check some emails if I saw them arriving.

  • Get fully engaged on your vacation activities. I like to stay busy even when I am on vacation, so I plan many activities for all days, even if they are the same ones I do in my normal routine, like yoga. By doing so, getting bored and thinking of work become less risky.

I agree, it's not easy to disconnect and not feel guilty about it, specially if leaders around you just take 'workations' - work fewer hours from their vacation destination. Resist the temptation to follow the flow and remember you are a diva, and you should set standards based on what is the best for you and your team. I truly believe that, by working hard to disconnect, you will develop into a better leader, more efficient and creative professional.

What about you, divas? What are your strategies to go against the flow and disconnect during your free time? Share your experiences here or @ideasfordivas on Twitter.

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