I recently returned home from being on vacation. I spent the last week with my two sons who are 17 and 19, their 9 friends and 60,000 other people at Darien Lake in upstate New York. We camped and took in an awesome music festival: Lots of music, fun, food, and late nights, very late nights around the campfire talking, singing and dancing. It was a fantastic time.
While away, I tried as much as possible to leave the office at the office. I got as close to disconnected as I could. By that I mean I only checked my email twice a day, and on one day not at all. I had one meeting via phone with the person who would be CIO while I was away, and that was it!
As many of you know, if you stay connected to your job while on vacation, you do not get a break. You also frustrate the people you are vacationing with when you spend more time with your PDA than with them. Also, if you continue to “operate” the business from your vacation location you risk sending the message to your team that even though you left them in charge, you do not believe they are capable of running the operation in your absence. So disconnect for your own good, for the benefit of your friends and family, and to send a clear message to your team in the office that you trust them to execute.
If the idea of completely disconnecting makes your palms sweat—as it does for many IT executives—here are a few tips for easing the anxiety and staying disconnected:
Chris’ Top Five Disconnecting Tips:
- Do not call anyone at the office, make sure everything is taken care of before you leave. When you say goodbye – MEAN IT!
- Lock your PDA in your car or your hotel’s safe. Do not turn it on until your vacation is over. You know what they say: Out of sight, out of mind.
- Provide very clear “out of office” e-mail and voice mail messages to set expectations for those contacting you. Here is the message I use: “Please be advised that I am currently out of the office returning on Day, Month, Date, Year. During this time, will be Acting CIO, responsible for the Information Technology Division and City Call Center with my full-delegated authority. Please contact at (416) 555-1212.”
- If you must check your e-mail, resist the temptation to respond. If you start composing responses, you’ll get sucked into an hour or more of activity. That’s time that could be better spent swimming, fishing, sight-seeing, reading, walking… the options are endless. Save your responses for your return.
- If you do start thinking about work, make a quick note in a journal, get the thought out of your head, on paper and then move on, back to recreational activities.
If you don’t follow these tips, you might find your BlackBerry at the bottom of a large body of water thrown in by a well-meaning family member who is concerned about your mental health.
With two weeks left before the start of school and the American Labor Day holiday, there’s still plenty of time for a vacation, So if you have time off planned over the next few weeks, keep these tips in mind, enjoy your vacation, take a break and recharge! And let me know what you do to disconnect from work. For more information on the value of vacations and disconnecting, see the article, Five Tips for Getting the Vacation You Need.