First let me start off by saying that I'm a workaholic. Like many entrepreneurs I end up working far to many hours and not taking time to breath.
When was the last time you disappeared for an entire day to catch up with friends, spend quality time with your family, or just completely unwind and do absolutely nothing? If you're like most Americans, it was probably a very long time ago. But we all need to step away from work and disconnect from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. There is sound, scientific reasoning for this advice. Keeping yourself away from work and tech will reduce stress, improve concentration, clear your head, and foster a healthy work-life balance.
Of course, that's easier said than done. But, it can be accomplished if you follow these 12 pieces of advice.
1. Prepare in Advance
I've found that the number one culprit in keeping myself away from work is that I have deadlines lingering in the back of my mind. Even if I just disappear for one day, that's now one day of work that I have to play catch-up on. To prevent this from happening, I plan certain times to unplug.
For example, if I plan on taking off from work so that I can go camping with my friends for a night, I have that date inked in my calendar. By doing so, I'm able make sure that I have completed all of my Most Important Tasks (MIT) before I leave. This way I won't have to be concerned about any upcoming deadlines.
2. Delegate Tasks
Whether it's an assistant, colleague, or coworker, you can delegate certain tasks to these angels so that you aren't as concerned with emergencies - and you will get bombarded with less and less calls and emails. This individual can do anything from updating your company's blog or answering phone calls, and plenty of other tasks that you can prepare the assistant for. The idea is that if you have someone you trust holding down the fort, you will have less to worry to about - which means you can stay away from the office (or you can back away from the computer).
When delegating, here are a couple of pointers to do so effectively:
Let other's know who this person is going to be so that they aren't caught off-guard when they respond to an email. And, make sure that this individual is the only one who has your emergency contact information, in case there's a problem that they can't resolve. (You don't want the emotional call after the "friend breakup" while you are trying to relax.
3. Make Plans
If you're just hanging around your house the temptation to check your emails or voicemails is just plain and simply too much to bear. Additionally, it wouldn't really be that hard for someone to track you down if you're just binge watching Netflix on your couch. (Which may be something that you need to do, and that's fine.) But a more mentally healthful plan is to prepare plans so that you can get out of the house. This action makes it harder for you to check your email every 5-minutes, and it gives you a great alibi if you can't be reached.
Regardless if you have chosen a concert, sporting event, dinner with friends, or hiking in the mountains - making plans is probably one of the best way to keep yourself away from your work.
4. Notify Others
You've already notified a couple of key people, such as the person you're delegated tasks to, but you should also notify your entire office and clients. If they're aware that you won't be available for 24 hours, they'll helpfully address any questions or concerns with your before you go away so that they won't have to contact you. Even if they don't reach you in time, they'll at least know that you're away from the office and they can reach the delegated individual if there is an emergency.
5. Sign out of Work-Related Accounts
If you have any work accounts, such as email or social media accounts, stored on your smartphone, sign-out of them so that you won't be tempted to check-in during your brief getaway. You may think that just responding to one email isn't that big of deal, but you'd be surprised at how quickly you get sucked into a conversation or start frantically checking all of your messages. Just doing this one thing has helped me become a whole lot less stressed.
6. Turn Off Notifications
Sometimes it's difficult to separate work and personal accounts - especially if you're a freelancer. If that's the case, then you should disable most of your notifications that could be work-related. While email and social media are the first that come to mind, apps like your calendar and Evernote can also make it a challenge to discount.
Thankfully, most smartphones allow you to disable specific push notifications so that you can still receive texts or phone calls for emergencies. You can also download apps like Anti-Social or Freedom that will block social websites that keep you distracted.
7. Automate Replies
I mentioned earlier that you should notify people that you'll be away for the next 24-hours or beyond, but are you really going to be able to keep everyone in the loop? That's pretty much impossible. As opposed to emailing or texting all of your contacts, and even those who aren't in your address book, set-up an automated response that briefly states that you're out of the office, when you'll return, and who to contact if there's an emergency.
You can even use social media management tools like Hootsuite to schedule auto-responses and updates in advance.
8. Leave Your Gadgets Behind
If you have a laptop, smartphone, or tablet dedicated solely for work, then leave these gadgets at the office or in a room that you usually don't spend time in. If you use the same devices for personal and professional use, then you can still employ the same tactic. Personally, I cannot leave my babies (computer and phone) at home - I worry too much about them. But I have been able to train myself to turn them off.
9. Put Your Focus Elsewhere
If you haven't been able to make any plans, or maybe you just want to veg at home, then put part of your focus and energy elsewhere so that your mind is free from work. Whether it's playing a board game, repainting your bedroom, or trying out a new recipe, keeping your mind occupied is a great distraction when you need to temporarily get away.
10. Set Boundaries
Even if you've made it clear to a client, your boss, or an employee that you're taking some time off, there's a very real possibility that you'll be duped into rescheduling your day off. Don't be afraid to speak up and stand your ground. If you've completed your most important tasks, and there isn't an emergency, then inform them that you'll resolve any problems when you return.
11. Schedule Check-Ins
What if you're in a situation where you can't completely disconnect? Should you put off your mini-vacation? Not necessarily. Schedule a couple of minutes, such as in the morning and evening, to check your email, texts, or social media accounts. However, don't allow yourself to get consumed. Just respond to your most vital messages and go back to enjoying your day off. I personally get up several hours early and do some work, then I completely unplug. If I'm home, I don't even answer the door (I don't care if they can hear the TV).
12. Be Honest With Yourself
Finally, and this may be a real challenge, you have to realize that the world isn't going to end because you're unplugged for a mere 24 hours. If you've taken the appropriate steps, like delegating tasks and informing your clients and employees, most emergencies can wait until you get back online or in the office.