What if it’s important? This will just take a minute. They can’t finish this project without me.
Sound familiar? Many professionals struggle with taking their headspace — and attention — out of the office, even when they’re supposed to be drinking fruity cocktails on the beach. Email is no doubt a hard habit to break. In fact, a recent survey found that 62 percent of Americans “check-in” with work while on vacation.
Here’s the deal, though: There are many benefits of getting away from your normal routine and allowing yourself to relax and recharge. When you actually make the effort to stop checking email and take a break from work while on vacation, studies show you are more productive when you return and dive back into your tasks with a renewed spirit. On the flipside, if you spend all your time searching for WiFi, you’ll feel exhausted and likely a little resentful when you return to the office. After all, it’s called paid time off for a reason.
Here, career experts share their best tips on how to stop checking email while on vacation, so you can truly enjoy your time OOO.
Put a plan in place
This may seem like an obvious piece of advice, but as transformational leader, law of attraction coach and author, Christy Whitman explains, you need to address what your triggers could be before you leave. What does this mean? Maybe there’s a specific project that’s been occupying a lot of your mental state thanks to a demanding deadline. Or, perhaps a client is known for sending rapid-fire first thing every morning.
“By identifying these in advance, you have time to brainstorm possible solutions,” says Whitman. For example, “You could set up specific inboxes that each sender’s emails are automatically sorted into, so that you can prioritize those that need your immediate attention when you return,” she suggests. Let key players know how to reach you in case of a true emergency, and advice others to follow up with you on a certain date after you return.
Be clear in your communication
When you’re going on vacation, career expert and founder of the 9 to 5 Project Neely Raffellini recommends going above and beyond in your communication. This means giving ample notice to your supervisors, co-workers, anyone who reports to you, as well as clients and vendors, so they have time to get anything necessary from you before you leave.
Also, be sure to delegate tasks to your team, and coordinate with the person who will step in during your absence. It’s important to be super-specific when writing your out-of-office reply, directing senders to the appropriate contact for potential inquiries. This will ensure nothing is misconstrued and that everyone will be prepared for you to be away from email.
Turn off message alerts
When you get a text message or Facebook notification, you may also be tempted to glance down at your mailbox app. Seeing the amount of emails filling up your inbox will only lead to that nagging need to check in. Even if you vowed you wouldn’t answer anything while you were away, they’re right there — so now you feel like you have to.
You can avoid this by turning off all (yes, all) alerts while traveling, as recommended by leadership development and career expert Elizabeth Whittaker-Walker. “If you see them flashing on your screen just before you take a selfie in front of a beautiful waterfall, you’re going to be tempted to look,” she says. “Turn off message alerts while you’re away, and don’t look back.”
When all else fails, remove email from your phone
Sure, the mere thought of not having access to your work email might be terrifying. But what’s worse would be spending all your time refreshing your inbox when you should be seeing the sites or enjoying the views from your beachside cabana. Whittaker-Walker says for those who can’t get by removing email alerts, taking away the temptation completely is in your best interest. “Should you decide to do this — as well as leave your work laptop at home — you’ll be even better positioned to unplug,” she explains. “You’ll have to take extra steps to cross the boundaries you’ve already established for yourself, making it less likely for you to cross them.”
Change your perspective
At the end of the day, it’s totally normal to feel a little anxious when you’re away from your work email for an extended period of time. However, Whitman challenges professionals to really explore what makes them feel on edge — and find a way to shift their thinking. This could be exercising, meditating or going through any sort of calming routine that will help you disengage with the obsessive or worrisome thoughts.
If you continue to find yourself overthinking about what would happen if stop checking email, take a pause and think through why you’re stressing about this. Most of the time, the pressure is coming from within, and companies want to give you time to reboot. However, if you find that your boss expects you to be online when you’re on vacation, it’s worth considering if you’re truly fulfilled at your job.