If you’re like most Americans, you probably feel overworked and under-vacationed. But what’s the point of going on vacation if you’re going to check your email just as often as you would if you were sitting at your desk? Here are a few tricks for unplugging and enjoying your vacation—we promise those emails will still be there when you get back.
1. Do as Much as You Can Ahead of Time
If there are old emails you’ve been meaning to reply to or loose strings from long-running projects, deal with them before you even begin packing. Otherwise it’s likely to slip through the cracks unless you keep it in mind the whole trip, and who wants to do that?
2. Decide Which Sites Are Still Fair Game
In this day and age, banning all Internet use on vacation can be more of a chore than a relief. Maybe you love keeping up with your friends on social media or reading the news online every morning. If that’s your thing, stick with it. By deciding which sites are okay to visit before you jet off, you’ll save yourself the guilt of powering down without checking in at the office.
3. Make the Most of Your Out-of-Office Message
With email in your pocket at all times, it can be difficult to justify ignoring the people who need to reach you. Make sure your automatic reply addresses their needs as clearly as possible by getting a colleague or assistant to sign on as your backup, then have your message direct time-sensitive tasks their way.
4. Establish a Clear Definition of “Emergency”
Make sure the colleague who is handling your emails while you’re away understands what constitutes an emergency worth interrupting your vacation. Be specific so you don’t have to field unnecessary calls to clarify.
5. Keep Your Travel Documents in One Place
Avoid having to check your email for pertinent travel documents like fight times and rental car details (and thus feeling tempted to open that urgent-looking work email) by forwarding all trip-related emails to a separate account that doesn’t have the rest of your emails in it.
6. Silence Your Phone
Take advantage of the “Do Not Disturb” setting on your phone. Keeping a mobile phone with you can be prudent in case of emergencies, but for specific activities—a spa trip or a day at the beach—don’t be afraid to silence all notifications and just focus on the R&R.
7. Leave Your Work Gear at Home
This is a simple one, but if you have devices—phones, tablets, etc.—for work that are separate from your personal devices, just leave the work ones at home. This way, you can be reached in an emergency but won’t be bogged down in the day-to-day deluge.
8. Keep All of Your Technology Inside
If you prefer to be a little more connected, try the inside vs. outside rule: When you’re inside your hotel—in the morning, or while your travel companions are getting ready—you’re free to check in on work emails, etc. Once you get outside, all technology is ignored. This way, you can check in enough to stay sane without missing out on what makes your vacation so special.
9. Plan Out Your Return
Prepare for the chaos when you return. Don’t schedule a ton of meetings for the first day back—that will just make the end of vacation unbearable as you’re tempted to get a head start sorting through all the backlogged emails. In fact, carve out a few hours to close your door and get away from everyone just to catch up.
10. Have a Colleague Fill You In
While you’re at it, don’t be afraid to ask someone to catch you up on what you missed. You might worry about cutting into their work time, but it will be better for everyone to clear up any confusion preemptively.
11. Get Everyone on the Same Page
Whatever unplugging strategy you choose, make sure all of your travel companions are on board before you leave so you won’t waste a second of vacation time arguing about emails. Instead, get out there and explore!