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OWNER'S MANUAL

How to Take a Stress-Free Vacation

The best way to disconnect from work? Stop trying--it will only make you anxious. Instead, try this plan for minimum stress and maximum relaxation.

My entrepreneur friends talk about this all the time. They're going on vacation. They plan to retreat, relax, recharge, reflect, recreate... This time, they'll even disconnect!

We all know how that turns out.

In spite of their best intentions they don't totally disconnect. They can't, not completely. That's just not how they're made.

And when they ignore that reality and decide not to plan ahead (because this time I'm really going to do it!) they end distracted and anxious and scrambling to cobble together ways to check in that just makes it worse for everyone: Their staff, their family, and themselves.

Admit it. You've been there too. And you're a terrible MacGyver.

The key, according to Jim Secord, CEO of Kashoo, a Vancouver-based online accounting software firm (that also makes a very slick iPad accounting app), is to accept the reality and plan for a partial disconnect. Here's how:

Embrace the cloud before you go.

Few things are worse than sitting on a beach thinking, "Wait, do I have that file?" and realizing you don't. Who wants to fire email attachments back and forth?

If you're hesitant, start simple with something like Google Docs, and you and your in-office team can track the status of various projects.

Clone yourself.

Designate someone on your team to take all inbound inquiries from the rest of your staff. Let everyone know that person is "you" for the week. Give them guidelines for what can wait, what they can handle on their own, and what you need to know about immediately.

You'll lighten the load of trivial emails and increase your ability to actually relax.

Invest in a tablet.

Lugging your laptop with you on vacation is like waving a flag that screams, "I'm working!" to your fellow vacationers. (Plus, on the practical side, the battery life is lousy by comparison.)

A tablet straddles the fence between work device and entertainment device: When you're poolside you can crank out a few emails, tap into your newly embraced cloud, pull up the reader app... and no one will ever know the difference.

Set check-in times.

No one wants to watch you check your email every 20 minutes, regardless of the device. Instead wake up 30 minutes before you normally would. Grab a cup of coffee, sit out on the porch or beach, crank through your email, make a few calls--and be done with it for the day. Or pick a time that's least likely to intrude on family activities. Then prep your team in advance so they what to expect.

Note: If you slate a morning phone check-in with the office for, say, 7 a.m., think about a peace offering in return. Say lunch on you for the team for the week?

Follow the "no-charge rule."

Sure, you can charge your devices overnight. But don't recharge them during the day. That way, if you run out of battery at, say, 2 p.m., that's too bad. There's nothing you can do. You'll naturally try to conserve your batteries... which means you'll have to step away from the device more often.

A no-charge rule is certainly easier to set than to follow, but if you can, hats off to you!

Skip the "Out of Office" auto-response.

If you will respond to email, why put one up? All you'll do is fill the sender's inbox. Plus, your primary circle of contacts knows you'll be checking emails periodically. If you need to respond, you will--otherwise your clone can handle correspondence.

Only set up an auto-response if you'll truly be out-of-touch.

Check your data plan.

If you're traveling abroad, make sure you're set on the data front before you leave. Otherwise you could return to a pile of huge fees.

Understand that everything will be okay.

If you've set all the right expectations and have the right processes in place, everything will be fine while you're gone. Work will be waiting for you when you get back.

Never forget: Having the ability to make your own schedule is one of the reasons you've chosen the entrepreneurial path--so embrace it and enjoy it!

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IMAGE: Getty
Last updated: Jun 18, 2012

JEFF HADEN | Columnist

Jeff Haden learned much of what he knows about business and technology as he worked his way up in the manufacturing industry. Everything else he picks up from ghostwriting books for some of the smartest leaders he knows in business.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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