How many times have you said, “I could use a pina colada and a beach”? How many times have you actually ended up on a beach with a pina colada? America seems to have a disconnect between recognizing the importance of vacations and actually taking one.
According to a study released by the U.S. Travel Association, Americans had 768 million days of paid time off left unused last year. 55% of Americans did not use all of their paid vacation time (Washington Post). That means that only 45% of Americans used their vacation time; but who knows if was for vacations versus days off to run errands, take care of family obligations, etc.
For many, this vacation time does not roll over – once it’s left unused, it’s gone forever.
Not only are people not using their vacation time, but many take time off of work, only to be inundated by work emails, calls, and texts. It is almost impossible to leave work behind.
However, with a concerted effort, you can figure out how to enjoy “vacation mode.”
The most important thing about vacation and “vacation mode” is to recognize that it is not about leaving work and responsibilities behind, but rather it is about allowing yourself to recharge and regroup so that you can bring your best to all aspects of your life, work included.
I always think of it like those toys you had as a kid where you would roll the wheels back and then when you let it go it would race ahead full speed. That is what a vacation is – it’s a chance to gather all of your energy and focus so you can get back to your work raring to go and pushing full speed ahead.
Of course, this easier said than done. If you can’t completely turn off from the office, which many can’t, then set some boundaries around work so you can check-in, stay on top of emails, but also allow yourself space to emotionally and mentally step away from the office.
Create a plan and stick with it! Some suggestions:
- Engage that out of office! Don’t be afraid to let people know you are unavailable and when you will respond to them. Setting reasonable expectations is not only professional but shows that you value your time as well as theirs.
- Set an email / phone checking schedule. Example: twice a day – once in the morning and once before dinner.
- Turn off notifications! Do not have emails automatically come through on your phone when you are on vacation. Personally, I turn off the data option and only turn it on during the above set times.
- Allow yourself some breathing room. It’s ok to feel like you have a lot to do but breathe through it. It will still be there when you get back.
I find that allowing myself to see what is in my inbox, makes me realize that 99% of it does not have to be dealt with right then, and that takes the fear of the unknown away. I know what I will be coming back to, I also know that my team can handle it while I’m gone.
As for texts and calls, I have a response saved in my notes (like a manual out of office) that I copy and paste during my twice-a-day “work” periods and that takes care of 99% of the ‘urgent’ issues.
Most people understand the need for a vacation and I found boundaries are most important during the times I step away from the office!