The dominant pop psychology is that people should completely unplug from work when on vacation. People advocate unplugging so strongly that you'd think staying connected on any level completely negates the value of getting away.
As a business owner, I can't easily unplug entirely—and I'd venture that doing so is more stressful and damaging to me than staying somewhat connected.
Here's my thinking:
I’d rather take more vacations in which I do a little work than never or rarely get away. I’m still gaining a break, a different routine, and a change of scenery. It’s rare for me to find a pocket in which I can be completely unreachable.
I receive a few hundred e-mail messages each day. Some are critical, many are not. Even so, I need to address each on some level. I would rather spend a short time each vacation day sorting e-mail than returning to dig out from an avalanche.
People post on social media while on vacation—even if just to ensure we envy their pristine ski slopes. Checking Facebook keeps them plugged into their “regular" lives. To me, updating social media while on holiday is no different than staying connected to work.
Even so, vacation is about rest and relaxation. To reap the full benefits of getting away even while working a little, I set rules:
Turn on the “out of office" notifications. I’m not unplugged, but I’m not at work. I only respond to critical items and messages that require minimal time. Everything else is a task for my return.
Schedule check-ins. I ensure my vacation plan gives me enough cushion to connect twice a day. So they know what to expect, I tell critical contacts when I will check in. If they need to reach me at a specific time, I ask them to let me know in advance so I can schedule it.
Find a watchdog. If I'm traveling solo, I police myself. If not, I ask my traveling buddy to nudge me if I linger on the computer or phone. Even if we're not exploring, I'd rather read than work outside my designated taking-care-of-business time.
How about you? Do you check out entirely when on vacation? If you check in, do you have rules?