I’m not there: Five ways to check in when you’re checked out (for vacation)

Much has been written about the value of completely de-tethering yourself from the office during vacation: Look at something besides your computer screen. Recharge your (metaphorical) batteries. Reconnect with family. These are all valiant and important pursuits – but not always realistic in today’s world. As consultants, we fight a constant battle to balance our family business with our Family Business. That often means staying at least marginally plugged in, even on long weekends, during family visits and vacations. Here are five ways we stay in touch without losing touch with the most important people in our lives:

  1. Identify a time to check-in – and stick to it. Choose a time when you can devote 15 – 30 minutes to checking in with your business without disrupting your family time or down time. For example, if you’re the first one out of bed, get a cup of coffee and read/respond to the mail. If you plan to sleep in, consider setting aside 15 – 30 minutes after you have wrapped up your evening and the kids are in bed.
  2. Set expectations early… and often. Let coworkers, clients and other business contacts know your vacation dates well in advance. If you have a weekly check-in mail with a client or manager, add “On vacation the week of – to –” as a miscellaneous line-item. 1-2 weeks before your vacation, tell your client/coworkers verbally that you will be gone and not available by phone. Let them know that you will be checking working mail once daily, either in the morning or evening – and that you will not be available by phone.
  3. Don’t be too accessible. Let technology do the heavy lifting for you. If a business call does come in, resist the temptation to step away and answer it. Let it go to voice mail, and plan to check it as part of your daily work review. Stay out of work mail during the day as well. This is your vacation, and you do need to recharge. Also, there is nothing relaxing about an impromptu argument with an annoyed family member.
  4. Leave the files at home. If possible, leave your laptop – and definitely any actual folders or files – at home. This will help you resist the urge to do just a little work. Also, you can’t forget important documents at the hotel if you don’t have them. Whatever it is can wait.
  5. Make a commitment to yourself. It is easy to say you are going to relax and enjoy your vacation – but only you can truly do it. Make a commitment to yourself that you will not check email or jump when a client calls, and follow through with it. It may be tough the first day or so, but you and your family will appreciate it.

We take so little time for ourselves these days that it’s difficult to remember a time when we could truly relax. You don’t have to take the radical approach of locking every piece of technology in the hotel safe to force yourself to untether and reconnect with your family – you just have to make a commitment, form a plan and follow through. Practice over the holidays and a few long weekends, and by next summer, you’ll be ready to take on vacation with a whole new perspective.

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