Learning to Relax When You’re on Vacation

senior couple beach sunset sunrise Summer is finally here, which probably also means you’ve been planning some sort of a vacation for a while. I like to try and make a trip of some sort with my kids and grandkids every year. But while I can often find a few vacation days to get away from the office, I sometimes find it tough to really relax when I’m away. Before we all head off on vacation, I wanted to go through a few problem points when it comes to relaxing and some strategies to make your vacation a real break from work.

Staying Connected

Cell phones have done a lot to make life easier and more convenient, but they can be hard to put away. It’s one thing to check your email when you’re on your way to a meeting and need a refresher on the material you’re going to cover. It’s another to be lying on the beach in Hawaii with your family fielding questions from clients. Many people feel like they’re expected to be available even when they’re on vacation and worry about what the consequences might be if they’re out of the loop.

The key to disconnecting is planning in advance. You need to make sure everyone knows when you’ll be gone and for how long as far in advance as possible so that they plan around you not being there. Start working ahead and leaving instructions for when you’re gone early on so that you leave feeling like things will go just fine without you. Before you leave, make sure you set an “Out of the Office” automatic message. Make it clear who to contact while you’re away so that urgent matters can be handled by someone else. Lastly, silence that phone. If you have separate work and personal devices, leave the work ones at home. This way, you’ll only get contacted in an emergency.

Thinking About Work

You’ve probably had the experience where your body is in one place while your mind is in another. That might help you stay productive during a boring meeting, but it’s not a great way to spend your vacation if your mind is on what’s happening at the office. No matter how relaxing your setting is, you won’t be able to fully recharge.

I’ve found meditation to be the best way to counteract this. Meditation forces you to pay close attention to what thoughts are in your mind at any given time, which forces you to look at how much you’re thinking about work and take steps to correct it. If you really can’t put something out of your mind, figure out exactly what’s bothering you most and figure out if there’s a quick way to deal it. If you really don’t think you’ll be able to relax until you know if a deal went through, then just call and find out. Be careful, though! You’re only doing this to draw a line through work responsibilities for good, not to get hooked back into them. Make that clear to yourself and your coworkers.

Set Expectations

Depending on your line of work, emergencies may crop up that require your attention. The key here is to talk to your coworkers about exactly what defines an emergency. If you don’t do this, you might get called for a spreadsheet that’s gone missing or questions about what an intern should be doing. Make the definition clear and set up a chain of command before you get called so that you’re only contacted with essential questions.

Finally, talk to your boss about expectations for vacation. Many people check their email or take calls for work because they think it’s expected and not doing so might jeopardize their job. A conversation with your boss might reveal something completely different that takes the pressure off and makes you feel like you can really forget work for a few days. Don’t let the conversation be one-sided, though. After hearing your boss’ opinion, push for less connection and more restrictions so you can spend more time with your family.