By definition, vacations are periods when we’re not working. But we’d be remiss not to acknowledge that, in 2018, work often still manages to creep past those 9-5 hours and, ultimately, into to our precious vacation time.
Now, there are certainly situations where interruptions come from a workaholic supervisor or an unwitting coworker. Maybe you get an email during off-hours about that high-profile presentation that’s coming up. Or maybe you’re dealing with a backlog of work after some sick days cut into your regular productivity. That stuff happens.
More often than not, though, work creeps into our non-working hours because we let it. We convince ourselves that we’re great multitaskers who can sneak in an email or two (or three) in the evenings at the resort hotel. We take laptops with us to places where WiFi was never meant to exist and then freak out about the lack of connectivity.
Working during vacation sucks. And, in an ideal world, it’s something we all avoid.
But if you really, truly must work while on vacation, here are some dos and don’ts to help make it just a teeny, tiny bit more bearable.
Do set up an auto-reply function
Sounds simple enough, but there’s a reason for its existence. Auto-replies are never fun to receive when you’ve just shot off an email. They are, however, a lifesaver if you’re away from the office and want to formalize the fact. They’re also a polite but professional way of letting others know not to bug you, as well as when you’ll be back. If they know what to expect, then they’re less likely to take offense at you being OOO.
Don’t look at your email unless …
You’re expecting an important message. And by important message, we mean an important message you asked to receive and that you can tackle quickly. Otherwise, trust us when we say that you will fall down a rabbit hole of email threads trying to catch up on what your coworkers are talking about.
Do turn off unnecessary notifications
Maybe email isn’t the only way that your company communicates. If so, be sure to log out of any all accounts and apps that deliver unnecessary notifications. If logging out of your accounts makes you nervous, then look at the mute settings on your device and turn off the ringer for everything but phone calls. This ensures you’ll only be interrupted with the most urgent of messages.
Don’t write back unless it’s actually urgent
Maybe you got a work-related email that’s a short question or something you think won’t take too much of your time. Resist the urge to write back. It’s not needed. Unless there’s an email with the headline “URGENT” or some other alarming signal that screams “Open me now or the fire will consume us all,” ignore it. If you reply to a casual email that’s not time-sensitive, you’re essentially saying, “Yes, go ahead and ask me to do more work.”
Do keep a timer and stick to it
Sometimes vacation hours can be sucked up by all those minutes spent waiting for a car to arrive, for the plane to take off, or just waiting for someone to decide what to eat. If you’re truly trying to do work while on vacation, time yourself. Set an alarm on your phone or sit in front of a clock that will help you easily check how you progress. Once you’ve run out of time, put the work away and do something fun.
Don’t tackle more than one priority at a time
If you let your mind wander to what you should and could be doing, it’s easy to create a never-ending list of to-dos. When that happens, it’s easy to lose sight of what’s important right now, in this instant. Avoid that by writing down, vocalizing, and committing to one priority at a time. Figure out your most important, time-sensitive goal and do that. Nothing else.
Do reward yourself
OK, so you quickly handled that client mishap you were afraid of blowing up without you present. Or maybe you just finally set up that auto-reply. Treat yourself to a margarita at the bar or an extra-luxurious bath. Reward yourself for setting your boundaries.
Remember, working while on vacation isn’t a vacation. It’s just a stressful way to give up one of your hard-earned company benefits.
This story was originally published on May 22, 2018. It has been updated (and will continue to be updated) to include new tips, advice, and guidance, to ensure we are always giving you the best, most valuable resources.