Unplugging Your Vacation
Relax and recharge on your next getaway by taking a break from technology.
The value of getting away from the work routine is apparent to every leisure time and mental health expert who studies the issue. Overextending yourself to stay connected takes a real toll mentally, physically and financially. Individuals benefit greatly when they take time to recharge, refocus and replenish mind, body and spirit by periodically letting go of everyday professional responsibilities.
Yet, in a country where people tend to define their identities by their job titles, where toiling away for long hours is seen as a measure of true worth – and where there exists a palpable fear that someone might slip into a temporarily vacated position – less than half take true vacations.
Even among that number, many are reluctant to sever the technological umbilical cord to their workplace. It’s all too common to see so-called vacationers on the beach, in mountain cabins or on a cruise staring intently at smartphones, laptops or tablets instead of the vistas before them.
You know the feeling. You hear a buzz or a ding and you automatically reach for your phone or tablet. It’s almost Pavlovian, this urge to check the alert as soon as you become aware of it. For many, it’s the new norm. But it doesn’t have to be. Those digital distractions may have you missing out on something more important: work-life balance.
While pulling the plug on our digital addiction may not be easy, it will likely be worth the effort, especially when you’re on vacation. Disconnecting, thoughtfully, gives you back more quality time for yourself and your family and allows you to mentally and spiritually recharge. And do so – this is key – without those nagging thoughts that something desperately requires your attention back home.
Cut the Cord
Commit to no (OK, maybe limited) technology on your trip. Research and plan important details ahead like day trips, vehicle rentals, accommodations, and restaurants so you don’t feel you need a technological lifeline.
Get off the grid in remote locations, where cell towers are few and internet connections spotty. National parks in the American and Canadian West (not to mention remote parts of the planet) have wireless dead spots. You will be unplugged – naturally. Just make sure everyone knows you intend to stay that way.
The average American spends more than half of their waking life staring at a screen.
Delegate a Proxy
Tag one trusted person with your vacation information to let you know if there is a real emergency back home. At work, delegate time-sensitive matters to someone before you leave.
Work, Then Play
Many who don’t take vacations (or won’t unplug while away from home) fear the volume of work that will greet them upon return. Finish known projects ahead of time and delegate others. Let your vacation be an actual vacation.
Use Technology for Good
Since you’ll be unavailable, use technology to let everyone know. Turn on your phone messaging service and email auto reply. Don’t even think about peeking while you’re in vacation mode.
Do not answer queries – not one; unless, of course, it is a true emergency. Reinforce the idea that “unavailable” means unavailable. Even as you’re learning what it means to be “out of touch,” ensure that your co-workers understand it, too.
Nor post on Facebook, Instagram or whichever platform you habitually use. Put them all on lockdown. Become “antisocial” at least in terms of social media. FOMO, fear of missing out, only arises if you’re watching from the sidelines. Don’t.
Step Back in Time
If constant communication is such a part of you that you can’t sleep, opt for a real camera for picture taking (ditch the cellphone) and surprise friends and family by sending some postcards the old-fashioned way (with real postage stamps).
Prepare for Re-Entry
Even if you’ve had a truly refreshing and relaxing vacation, it will end at some point. In a quiet moment, perhaps at the airport or on the plane, take an hour or two to check emails, keeping only those you need to take action on. It may help to know what you’re facing when you head back to everyday life.
Have Good Intentions
But know your limitations. If you can’t go cold turkey on tech for some reason (e.g., you are a key player, an entrepreneur or have other responsibilities that you believe simply won’t allow you to seriously unplug), do your best to let clients, employees and others know of your intention to unplug on vacation. Should something need your attention, allow yourself to check in once a day, but attempt to keep it to that.
Material prepared by Raymond James for use by their advisors