Scrooge famously said that Christmas is "a poor excuse for picking a man's pocket every twenty-fifth of December!" Now, if Crachit had merely requested that he not work on Xmas, there'd be no pocket-picking. Scrooge was complaining about Paid Time Off (PTO).

Since then, the concept of Paid Time Off (for office workers at least) has increasingly come to mean:

  1. Work extra long hours before PTO to fill in for your absence.
  2. Be on call and available for "emergencies" while taking PTO.
  3. Work extra long hours after PTO to catch up on emails, voice mails, etc.

That's not PTO, it's just rescheduling your work to take unpaid time off. Real PTO (which is what you're contractually promised) means:

  1. You don't do extra work beforehand.
  2. You don't work while on vacation.
  3. You don't do catch-up work when you get back.

To turn your PTO into actual Paid Time Off, draw these three boundaries:

1. Use this auto-reply for your email:

I am out of the office and expect to have only infrequent email access. Thank you for your message. Email received between [these dates] will be deleted from this server eight hours from now. Please send your message again after [this date]. (from The Atlantic).

2. Use this message for your voice mail(s):

I am out of the office and won't be available by phone between [these dates]. Voice messages during that time will be deleted without being listened to. Please call me again after [this date.]

3. Set the texting auto-reply on your phone to this:

On vacation [these dates] and messages will be deleted unread. Text me again after [this date.]

I can't guarantee they'll work (because Apple and Google are always tinkering) but here's how to set autoreply an iPhone and here's how to set vacation-reply on an Android.