We work hard all year and look forward to taking our vacations.  It’s a time to relax, let go of work, and to de-stress.  But for many of us, letting go of work is hard and we need to learn how to take a vacation the right way.

How many of us stay connected to work during vacation?  According to Forbes, 82% stay connected to work in some fashion and 87% answered questions from co-workers while on vacation. Guess who used to be guilty of that?

Are You Working on Vacation?

Do you remember going on vacation when you were a kid?  Did your parents stay connected to work? No, it wasn’t possible.  At most, a phone call might come into the hotel while you were out, but no one would know about it until the return to the hotel.  It didn’t consume the entire day.  I remember that my father worked hard, but he also knew how to vacation the right way by putting his full attention to it.

Contrast that to today where we work hard, but we don’t vacation the right way. We’re more likely to have a smartphone nearby and it’s not just to take pictures. It’s to check up on our work emails. Even if all we’re doing is trying to stay ahead of email jail at work, by not disconnecting, we run the risk of not relaxing and fully being present and enjoying our vacation.

I will admit, I’m a huge violator of this. As a former operations manager in a telecommunications company, I had all sorts of ways to stay connected to work. And I did. My excuse had always been to clear out my emails so I wouldn’t “waste” the effects of my vacation by having to sort through 1000+ emails on my first day back.

Add in the fact that I’m a blogger, so I’m very much guilty of using my vacation time to catch up and get ahead on my blog. On one particular vacation, I tried to follow that same pattern and it was working. (Which also means, my attention was being removed from my vacation.)  During the first half of our vacation, I went through my work emails like crazy and I carried around my “blogging bag” wherever I went.

But then, something unexpected happened. I accidentally left the blogging bag in the car, which was parked across the street from our hotel. I didn’t want to go back for it, so blogging started falling off the radar, which somehow led to me not checking my work email the rest of the week. And miraculously, the planets aligned and magically the company was able to survive without me. Imagine that!

Even the blog survived without me. Sure, I read some of my favorite bloggers and commented on their posts but I don’t consider that work, but pleasure. I did notice that my traffic went up towards the end of the week even though I wasn’t engaging in social media the way I normally would. Not exactly sure how that one happened, but it did.

Steps for a Better Vacation

So I challenge everyone to truly disconnect while on your next vacation. You might find you’ll enjoy it better that way.  I understand that no one ever said on their deathbed that they wished they’d worked more.

Here are some tips to help you disconnect and truly vacation the right way:

1.  Disconnect your e-mail app from your phone.

2.  If you must look at email, set a designated time that won’t interfere with family time.

3.  Only bring one device.  Choose one, whether it’s your laptop or your work phone.  If you bring both, then you have a traveling office and you can consider yourself at work, not on vacation.

4.  Best option?  Don’t bring work with you, leave the devices home.  An old boss taught me that most email is only valid for the short-term and by the time you come back from vacation, it doesn’t matter anymore (think of all those emails you just delete.)   So leave the device home and delete when you return to work.