Years ago, before smartphones, I traveled to a spa in Mexico that had no cell service or phones in the rooms. Learning of a client company’s decision to restructure and fire my firm (as I crouched at a hallway pay phone, scrounging for quarters) didn’t leave me feeling exactly relaxed. And though the bad news had nothing to do with my choice of a remote getaway, it’s made me irrationally anxious about unplugging ever since. Launching my own business hasn’t helped, but truth to tell, it’s a personality thing. I’m a worrier.
Today, in the middle of a spring break vacation with the family, I’m taking a typical working holiday, attached to three wireless devices and serenaded by buzzes, pings, and ringtones. Guess what? It’s not so relaxing either. Studies show that the number of Americans taking working vacations doubled in the past decade – and that’s not even accounting for the economic downturn.
How, then, to hit a happy medium? To increase my vacation ROI – and maybe help others in my shoes – I put together a short list of tips for enjoying your holiday, if you’re a business owner, a consultant, or merely a control freak.
Time your vacations to minimize stress. Mini-breaks work best for start-up business owners, or inveterate worriers. I try to plan all my getaways during peak vacation seasons – Christmas week, July 4th, etc., when clients are most likely to be away as well.
Don’t be a slave to e-mail. Check it twice a day, and forward or respond to priority matters then, instead of scanning throughout the workday. This, of course, is a good rule in general, but I have trouble following it when in the office.
Consider office hours. If there’s a lot going on that requires your help, set aside two hours a day or whatever’s reasonable to have a telephone check-in with key staff or clients.
Invest in technology. For me, it’s just not worth it to depend on spotty WiFi or a slow connection. And, I’ve learned that redundancy when it comes to all technology – netbook batteries, rechargers, etc. – can save a world of frustration.
Do something. Sounds obvious, but I don’t always realize it. Planning enjoyable and immersive activities can be distracting and offer a natural schedule for work check-ins. If you’re just lolling by the pool, it’s too easy to let thoughts drift to work and fire off unnecessary emails. If you must be productive, tackle a solo creative project.
Above all, don’t feel guilty. Remember the point of a vacation. It’s easier if you think of it in ROI terms. You’re supposed to come out of this relaxed, renewed, and refreshed, brimming with new ideas, or at least with a fresh perspective.