How to Work While On Vacation (Without Going Crazy)
While we generally recommend unplugging altogether, here's how to stay productive (and relaxed) when you just can't pull away completely. Last week, I went on vacation and for the first time, did work while I was gone. My brother and sister worked even more. While it did take away from our relaxation time, I found that being able to check in made it easier to relax because I knew everything was going okay back at work. Here's what I've learned from the experience.
If You Don't Have to Work, Don't
Okay, I know this is about how to work on vacation, but I feel it's necessary to stress this first: if you don't have to work, try to unplug as much as possible. That's what vacation is for. Checking in may help you de-stress, but if you're unlucky, it can stress you out more and compel you to waste your entire day online solving some crisis. If you can, I recommend going on vacation and ignoring your laptop completely. It may be a little nerve racking at first, but it's also the best way to recharge.
That said, we know many of you are going to work on vacation anyway -- either because you have to or because you just can't pull yourself away. If that sounds like you, you should set up a few guidelines to keep yourself sane.
Set Aside Specific Work Times
Before you leave the office, choose a small block of time that you'll use to catch up on work. Let your co-workers know that this is the only time you'll be responding to emails, calls, and other work needs (unless they're real emergencies). For example, I checked my email around 5pm every day, during that daily downtime when everyone's showering, getting ready for dinner, and so on -- that way it didn't take away from my precious family time. If you have kids, schedule your time for when they're playing, sleeping, or otherwise away from you. Resist the temptation to extend your work time longer than your predetermined block.
Apart from that block of work time, I recommend leaving your laptop in your bag for the other 23 hours every day. Keep that as your "work zone" and disconnect completely during non-work times. Turn off notifications on your phone, set your calls to go directly to voicemail, and let everyone know they can text you if they need you right away (but only for emergencies). If you use a service like Google Voice, you can set up filters so only work calls go to voicemail, which is handy.
Use That Time for Basic, Stress-Free Tasks
Don't let yourself get sucked into long, drawn-out tasks during your work time. Remember, you're on vacation: keep your work tasks to basic things like checking emails, following up on calls, and generally keeping an eye on things. Delegate your bigger tasks to your co-workers (or subordinates, if you have them), and offer to do the same for them when they go on vacation. If you don't have time to follow up on an email now, star it and come back to it the day you return. The main idea is to keep your inbox from overflowing and keep work moving at the office (without doing all the work yourself).
Make Sure Your Internet Doesn't Fail You
The internet at your hotel, parents' house, lake cottage, or other destination never seems to be as good as your home internet, does it? The last key to working on vacation is to make sure your internet never fails you. Before you go, prepare yourself for slow or non-existent internet and gather up some tools to combat it:
- Get a tethering plan for your smartphone, or get a wireless hotspot. That way, if internet is unsatisfactory or goes down, you at least have a backup.
- Bring a power strip and a small Wi-Fi router like an AirPort Express. This won't make the internet any faster, but it'll sure make it easier -- especially in hotel rooms
that don't have enough outlets or Wi-Fi (but have ethernet access).
- Set up a secondary browser
for slow internet. With the right tweaks and add-ons, you can have a secondary browser on your laptop designed for making the best of a slow connection, letting you get your work done faster.
- Plan your work. If you know you're going to have slow internet, then perform bandwidth-light tasks at your house/hotel/wherever and group your bandwidth-heavy tasks together for when you have better internet, like at a coffee shop (or at the office before you leave).
A little planning can go a long way, so organize your work in a way that makes your vacation as easy and stress-free as possible-remember, the less time you spend working, the more time you have to relax.
In the end, working on vacation requires a lot of the same rules that working in the office does: keep a balance between work and play, draw clear dividing lines between each, and plan your time effectively. The only difference is you're spending a lot more time playing and a lot less time working. At least, you should be!