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How to Really Unplug this Holiday Season

How many times have you heard someone say, “I can’t believe it’s almost the end of the year already?” Maybe you’re the culprit and bring up the fact that the holidays are just around the corner in every conversation. Yes, Thanksgiving happened, which means Christmas and then New Years! Oh my, where has the time gone? Sure, buying Christmas gifts can be a stressor on its own, but the main thing you’re probably thinking about is whether or not you have to work during the holiday season.

“Research shows that 60% of smartphone-using professionals are accessible for 13.5 hours per day and an additional five hours on the weekend. If you really want your job to ruin your holidays, keep this pace up on your days off—an extra 72 hours of work right smack in the middle of your holiday.” Does your OOO message really mean that you’re “out of the office,” or does it mean that you’re still available and checking your emails while working remotely?

Let’s be honest. You’re checking your emails during your vacation.

Why are you still plugged in? Is it because of FOMO (fear of missing out), fear of losing your job, guilt, maybe a little of all of that and then some? It’s probably the same reason why we over-commit to events and adhere to the exact label of being a “Yes, Man / Woman!” We want to be everywhere and anywhere at the same time. Being in-the-know and being invited makes you feel wanted and that validates your self-worth.

This year has been jam-packed with travels that I never dreamed of embarking on. With a few passport stamps added, and hundreds, if not thousands, of photos from the Cayman Islands, Valle de Guadalupe, Iceland, to Maui and many local staycations, I have embraced the digital nomad lifestyle. But, during all of these trips, even while my email setting was put on OOO, I checked my emails vigorously, refreshed every minute I got, and even set my alarm to make sure that I woke up as if I was in the same time zone as my clients. Why?

Because the guilt is real.

“During the holidays, over 56% of people surveyed reported that work is their primary driver of stress.” Thinking about not being in the office almost creates more anxiety than actually being in the office, checking your emails, and being in-the-know. So, why did I check my emails constantly while I was on vacation? For multiple reasons, which I will dive in to, and tips on how you can overcome it.

1. Fear of falling behind on projects and forgetting timelines.

When you’re on vacation, your brain goes on the fritz. How does it relax? How do you turn your brain from work-mode to vacation-mode? It’s easy to start forgetting timelines and feeling like you’re drowning (metaphorically, and not literally while you’re snorkeling on your vacation on a remote island). Often times, I dream about work on vacation because I’m so afraid that I’ll forget something, and knowing that my clients are depending on me, makes me that much more anxious. So, how do I overcome this fear?

Set aside time. Wake up a little earlier, and give yourself 1 hour in the morning to check emails, respond, and schedule what you need to, accordingly. If I’m able to check off a couple of items on my list in the morning it helps me enjoy the day knowing that I have already completed a few tasks.

Create lists. Even when I’m on vacation, I write down what needs to get done that day and what I have accomplished. This helps me have clear, concise to-do lists that I can check off in the morning or throughout the day. Writing lists help “decompress” my brain; therefore, I don’t have to keep remembering things, and can see what I need to get done on paper.

2. If I’m not in the office, who else is going to do it? Will my job be at risk? No one can do my job better than me.

First, calm down. This is when you really need to take a deep breath. Going on vacation does not mean you are not good at your job. Everyone deserves a vacation. Based on the fact that you even feel guilty about taking a break, it’s safe to say that you probably care about doing your job really well and your company will most definitely want to keep you. The mindset that you’ll be replaced if you’re not there to do your job needs to be changed.

You should help your peers. As a team and company, you succeed when everyone succeeds together. Withholding information to make someone else fail or do a horrible job while you are gone is a reflection on you. It shows how little you are willing to train and help a colleague. Think of it this way, if you were in their shoes, and they left for vacation, wouldn’t you want them to provide you the means to succeed and help them in their role? Be a team player, not a sore loser!

3. The anxiety of emails and projects piling up.

Are you one of those types of individuals that can’t stand that little red notification icon above your email inbox? (Raises hand) Because I am! It definitely drives me nuts and I have to check my email immediately.

Even on vacation, it gives me anxiety knowing that there is an email that’s not seen or read. If you’re like me, there’s a solution. I usually check the email, and flag ones that are emergencies, and ones that can be saved to address later. The emails that are emergencies, I add to my list of to-do’s (tip #1) and address them during the hour I block off in the morning or evening for work. This allows me to scratch the itch, while still enjoying the present moment with family and loved ones during my vacation.

If you can unplug completely, props to you!

The following CNBC video tells you to delete your social apps completely, which I think is a little drastic. I think the main thing to remember is that you want to be present while you’re on vacation. Work will still be waiting for you when you get back, but your niece or nephew’s first steps won’t be. You don’t want to look back on your trip to Maui and think that all you did was work. I’m definitely not telling you to not check your emails or delete your Facebook or Instagram completely. Instead, I’m reminding you to balance the two.

Work-life balance is important. You got the work part down, now you just have to figure out the life and balance portion.

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