How to Forget about Work when you're On Vacation

Ah, yes – it’s vacation season for many countries in the northern hemisphere.  That means leaving work behind, and heading for the hills, seashore or wherever you go to relax.

But how good are you at leaving work behind?  More to the point, how good are you at not thinking about work, while you’re on vacation?

I’m talking about the leaving work behind part.  If you’re like me, or many of the family and friends with whom I’ve vacationed in recent years, you’re not as good as it as you’d like to be.  And that means your vacations are not as relaxing as they could be.

A lot has been written to help us not stress about work, when we’re not at work.  Let’s re-frame those strategies into a vacation framework:

Make tomorrow’s to-do list before leaving the office today.

Make your return-from vacation to-do list before leaving the office for vacation.  The very act of making the list will enable you to feel more in control, and not think about work while you’re away.
Once you’ve made the list, print it out, read it, internalize it, and put it in your desk drawer.  Then close the drawer, sigh and smile.  This will the metaphorical equivalent of locking work in a box while you go away to relax.

Don’t check work email when you’re not at work.

Email is addictive.  As soon as you read one email, you’ve triggered a chain of mental activity that puts your mind right back at work.


And if you respond to an email, you’re setting the expectation that you really are available, despite the “away message” you posted.  Suddenly, it’s an hour later, and you’ve missed seeing those incredible cannon balls that your children did for you off the dock.


If you absolutely, positively must check email during vacation, schedule the times you’ll do it, and stick to that schedule.


Put Self-Care in the Schedule

We all have personal routines that we build into our work week.  These might include the early-morning workout, meditation or other rituals that keep us sane during the work week.  The value of these activities is that help to reduce our stress, while increasing our health.


When some of us leave our Monday through Friday routines for a week or two of relaxation, we often forget to take those positive parts of our week with us.   If you run in the early morning during the week, try and do it the same time during your vacation.    If you meditate during the other 50 weeks of year, continue doing it during vacation.  Don’t leave your entire life behind when you go on vacation – take the self-care parts with you.  You’ll be more in balanced, and better able to enjoy the vacation, stress-free.


In Summary

The strategies that we use to reduce stress at work can help to eliminate work stress from your vacation, if you re-frame the strategies.    Write out a plan for the week you return to work, before you leave for vacation.  Don’t check email.  (But if you must, set strict boundaries, and stick to them.)  And finally, take your stress reduction rituals along for the vacation.  Their positive impact during a work week is equally positive during a vacation week.


Bon vacances!