How to (Actually) Let Go of Work On Your Holiday

How to (Actually) Let Go of Work On Your Holiday


Getting into summer is a super exciting time of the year. The office is abuzz with energy, it’s warm outside, and you can’t stop Googling pictures of your upcoming holiday destination (Bali, anyone?).

But there’s more to switching off from work than just flying out to a tropical destination. We’re so used to using our brains for tackling work tasks, staying on top of our projects, and problem solving,  we can sometimes struggle to step back, even when we’re on vacation.

As we head into holiday season, we’ve got a couple of tips to help you unwind, and truly leave work behind.

Residual Stress is Normal

When I went traveling in Europe a few years ago, it took me a full three weeks to shake the anxiety that had built up from working a job that really wasn’t a good fit. As the time passed and I still didn’t feel like I had relaxed yet, I became more worried that I wouldn’t be able to actually enjoy the trip at all, and those extra worries in themselves probably kept me anxious for longer.

In fact, it can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to actually be able to switch from ‘on’ mode to ‘off’ mode and let go of the residual stress of work. Whilst some people, like myself, might need longer, it’s been estimated that it takes on average four days to get into vaycay-mode, when we can finally experience the joy of our holiday.

Ironically, accepting that it can take some time to disengage instead of struggling against it will help you to be able to relax sooner- you’ll reduce the compound stress of worrying about worrying!

Your Time Away is Important- Don’t Forget That!

Taking time away is good. It’s good to enjoy your life outside of your work; there’s a lot more in the world to experience than the small place we occupy in our economy, and we shouldn’t forget it!

Whilst we should never feel like we have to justify taking time away from work- either to ourselves or others- there are actually many proven benefits to taking a vacation, which can improve our personal and professional lives throughout the year. Things like increased productivity at work, by being more engaged, dedicated, and resilient, and also giving us a boost in creativity (that thing that’s becoming more and more sought after in our evolving business climate).

Keep this in mind when you’re telling people that you’ll be going away, and ensure that you can set boundaries and say ‘no’ to things that would encroach on having some dedicated time off.

Get Your Team Prepared For Your Holiday

Brian Scudamore, multi-million dollar CEO of brands like 1-800-GOT- JUNK, is a huge proponent of his employees disengaging whilst on holiday, and recognises the importance of preparation for this. He suggests appointing a single trusted team member to be the point-of-contact whilst you’re away, and then handing over to them before you leave. Empowering a single person or your team to make decisions without you there is one of the best things you can do to ensure your own peace of mind whilst you’re away, and also gives you a chance to show your trust in your colleagues.

It’s up to you if you want to go completely ‘dark’ and be entirely uncontactable, or if you’re prepared to be in contact for certain levels of urgency. Either way, a good suggestion is to offer your team a ‘triage’ process to follow for different complications that may arise. In this way, you can offer alternative solutions to situations which don’t involve getting your input- meaning more stress-free mimosas for you.

Get Yourself Prepared For Your Holiday

Getting your own projects in order before you leave will ensure no sudden recollections of deadlines when you’re trying to enjoy a gallery tour in Italy (or insert your dream holiday here).
There are some easy, practical ways to do this, which include creating a to do list a couple of weeks before and working through it, as well as keeping the last day or few free before you leave free from meetings or other commitments, to give you time to handover, get to the bottom of your inbox, and address any last minute things that need taking care of.

Remember to set up your out-of-office email, and spread the word to other companies and people that you work with outside of your own organisation. Let them know you’ll be out, and share alternative contact details for who else they can be in touch with.

Limit Checking Once You’re Away

No matter how well you’ve prepared, it’s still going to be tempting to check on your inbox whilst you’re away. That’s normal; especially in small businesses where we each carry a lot of responsibility, it can be very hard to let go and leave the work to others. However, taking a vacation is not going to be nearly as rejuvenating- or enjoyable- if you’re still working. You need this time- if nothing else, you’ll be more productive at work after you return.

Instead of letting it take over your holiday, take responsibility for your relationship with technology. What that looks like will differ depending on your needs- you might go cold turkey, or you might be less stressed if you were still somewhat available whilst you’re away. Either way, you’re going to need to resist the temptation to continuously open your inbox. If you’re checking in, try doing it for a set amount of time at the end of the work day window, so you can avoid getting embroiled into an ongoing dilemma. Delete the apps you usually use for your work communications. Stick to what you’ve told your team- they’ll likely be respectful and understanding of your boundaries, and you should be to.

Bon Voyage!

It’s the end of another hectic year, and we all deserve some solid R&R. No matter what your plans are- road tripping along the Great Ocean Road, family time in Noosa, visiting Stonehedge in England, or simply binge watching Brooklyn 99 on the couch- give yourself that space to fully recharge. With some careful pre-planning, recognising that it might take some time for the brain buzz of work to settle, and then limiting your tech use whilst your away, you’re bound to make the most of your vaycay, and return with a spring in your step, and some gorgeous holiday snaps to boot.

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