5 tips to take an unplugged vacation

Think you can’t take time off without checking in on the office? Relax. Here’s how to keep things running while you’re out.

Last weekend, a very close friend got married at a summer camp in the middle of Maine.

It was summer camp as you experienced it as a kid, but with adult beverages. And, just like you experienced as a kid, you couldn’t send phone calls or emails home. There was no service, except in one spot in the middle of the camp where everyone could see you on your phone. It was as if they prepared to massively embarrass those of us who needed a fix.

My husband and I decided to extend our stay a few days and drive to the coast (where there was cell-phone service), but I decided to turn off email on my phone (and iPad) for three days. In fact, the iPhone makes it super easy to unplug. Just switch the mail icon to “off” in the settings, and voila! No more email.

I even set expectations that I was on vacation and would not respond to comments—a feat in and of itself!

I have to admit I cheated a little bit. I had my laptop with me, so I scanned email and blog comments once a day (very quickly) to be sure there wasn’t an emergency. As it turned out, there was only one thing that was kind of important, but it wouldn’t have been the end of the world had it waited until I got home.

There were a couple of things that elevated my blood pressure and, because my out of office clearly stated I would not check email, I decided to let them sit. And as it turns out, this gives you time to stew and think before you respond.

Three days of vacation was not enough, but it did allow this completely connected, addicted entrepreneur to take baby steps.

Long live vacation

When I got home, I read an article in “Fast Company called “Traditional Vacation is Dead. Long Live Vacation.”

The author, an entrepreneur, suggests three ways to take two weeks of vacation without things falling apart at home. One of those suggestions is to block off a few hours each day to work.

I’m not sure I agree with that. As I experienced, just checking email briefly took my focus away from my time off, and I wasn’t fully present because I was stewing on a couple of items.

But, if you haven’t yet taken your summer vacation or are planning a trip this autumn or winter, there are some easy ways to make sure you have uninterrupted time while the business, or your job, continues to tick.

Here are five tips for an unplugged vacation:

1. Start communicating months in advance.

Most of us plan our vacations months in advance. Start telling people as soon as you book it. Set expectations with clients, work internally to prepare, and keep the dates front and center so everyone is prepared.

If you are a solo entrepreneur and there is time to plan ahead, you’ll be surprised how willing clients are to let you have time off. And, if you don’t get paid unless you work, start working some extra hours to build up your vacation fund. This will allow you to still receive a paycheck while you’re out.

2. Train someone to take your spot.

All of us need someone to fill our spots. This is scary for some, because we like to feel like we’re indispensable. But training someone to fill in for you will give you the peace of mind you need to fully be on vacation. No one will mind helping you out, because they know you’ll be there for them when it’s their turn.

3. Allow re-entry time when you get home.

This is one I use when I travel for work. Patti Knight typically schedules the day after a long business trip free of meetings. It allows me to reconnect with my team, get through emails, and actually do some work.

If your vacation begins as soon as you finish working on Friday and lasts until midnight on Sunday, you won’t have time to decompress before going back to work.

4. Turn email off completely.

I don’t know how it works on an Android, but the iPhone makes it super easy to turn off email. Just switch the mail icon to “off” in settings.

5. Don’t answer your phone.

Because you followed steps one and two, you likely won’t get any phone calls. But if you do, don’t answer it. It’s unlikely there is a true emergency; someone probably just forgot you’re out.

If there truly is an emergency, the person will leave you a message, and you can quickly return the call.

You could, of course, not take your phone, tablet or laptop on your trip, but that might take it a little too far. For me, my Apple devices also serve as my camera, gaming, reading, writing, social networking, and more.

Gini Dietrich is founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, Inc. A version of this article originally ran on Spin Sucks.

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