Yes, You Can Go on Vacation—and Actually Not Work!

Wendy-Wallbridge-220x300Vacation is great in theory. In practice, many of us find ourselves doing work, thinking about work or answering emails. That’s if we even manage to take time off. Last year, 41% of Americans didn’t even take a day for themselves, according to travel site Skift.

But vacations are an essential break from the daily grind. “When you never unplug, you lose touch with yourself and what’s important to you, and your broader, wiser perspective—and that’s when burnout starts to set in,” says Wendy Wallbridge, an executive coach and author of Spiraling Upward: The 5 Co-Creative Powers for Women on the Rise. Here’s how to go on vacation, and enjoy it, too.

Pen—Don’t Pencil—It In

Scheduling a vacation can seem unthinkable when you’re too busy to check the weather, let alone plane and hotel fares. But once you take the time to look at your calendar, figure out when your work cycle is on the ebb, coordinate the dates with your coworkers and get your boss’s approval—buy your tickets right away and tell your boss that you did so. “If you put money down, you and your boss are less likely to turn back or forget those dates are blocked out for you to be out of the office,” Wallbridge says.

Pay It Forward

To get out ahead enough to be away for several days, you may have to put in some long nights or working weekends. It may seem a daunting price to pay, but you won’t regret it once you’re over the hump. If you’re worried about work piling up while you’re gone—or if you simply have too much to do before you leave—consider delegating some of it. “Find colleagues you have helped or for whom you can return the favor when they go on vacation,” Wallbridge suggests. “Or you could make this an opportunity for someone junior who reports to you and give her first crack at something you would normally handle.”

Last-Day Checklist

So you can go with an unencumbered conscience, Wallbridge recommends making sure you do these three things before you leave:

  1. Send a status update to your boss and any people who’ll be covering for you, so they know where everything stands.
  2. Create a backup plan for anything that might suck you back into work if it goes wrong, and share it with everyone who is affected by it.
  3. Tell your team how accessible you’ll be by phone while you’re away and when you’ll be checking email (see below), and inform everyone outside the company of this via your outgoing voicemail message and automatic vacation email reply.

The Email Exception

Ideally, you won’t open your email at all when on vacation, but Blackberries aren’t called “crackberries” for nothing. “People also check email for peace of mind,” Wallbridge notes. So she recommends what a client of hers does: “If you have to check your email, do it only twice a day, at a set time in the morning and in the afternoon, and never respond unless it’s a true emergency.”

Reboot with Mini-Breaks Every Day

You need several consecutive days to unwind and replenish your energy and creativity, but that’s on top of “a daily practice of silence or me-time, when you disconnect from technology and connect with your inner wisdom,” Wallbridge says. “Women tend to discover their path as they go along, rather than follow a prescribed one, and they can only know what the next right thing for them is if they take the time to hear themselves think and breathe.”

Wendy Wallbridge will be speaking on the panel, “Reviving a Stalled Career,” at the 2015 Texas Conference for Women.