This year, Arianna Huffington's Thrive Global introduced a hot new email productivity tool. Thrive Away, as the tool is known, intercepts your email then sends a message telling the sender when you're returning to the office. But its killer feature is that the tool deletes the email--whoosh--like it never happened.
While I'd put Thrive Away on my "want" list for the future, I'm not quite there yet. I run a couple of businesses and being completely unattached from the office would cause stress during a time when I'm paying good money to de-stress.
As with most things in life, I find a healthy balance works best for me. While out of the office on a vacation, I allot a few hours a day for the first few days to business matters, then unplug for most of the day for the remaining days. I've changed this pattern up a bit but my solution has often involved some mixture of unplugged time and time windows of varying length to attend to business matters.
My solution may not be for everyone, but if you're in a similar situation, here's how to work on vacation without driving yourself and everyone else crazy:
1. Research the connectivity situation.
This is a lesson I learned the hard way. I recently went on vacation in a National Park.
I assumed that in this day and age, National Parks would at least offer decent wireless service, but apparently that's not the case. So I spent a couple of days unexpectedly out of pocket which caused more stress (for me) given I had not planned to be completely unplugged. If I had known about the blackout conditions beforehand, I still would have gone. But I would have been able to better prepare for the fact that I'd be unreachable for a day or so.
2. Tie up loose ends before you leave.
Spending the week before vacation plowing through two or three weeks' worth of work is a time-honored tradition. I find I can't often take care of all my work, but I can at least clear 80-90 percent of it out of the way.
It's worth the extra effort and allows me to enjoy my time out of the office.
3. Tell everyone not to contact you unless it's an emergency.
It helps if you've already empowered your staff to handle small- to medium-size issues on their own.
For potential larger issues, offer a course of action to take that falls short of having to bug you during vacation, yet provides enough of a reliable action plan for emergencies to be helpful.
4. Set expectations with your family.
Announcing that you have to take half a day off away from sightseeing because you scheduled some calls won't go over so well with the family if you spring it on everyone at the last minute.
If you let your family know beforehand, though, they can understand and make excursions work around your schedule.
5. Limit your email exposure.
Even if you're not ready for Thrive Away you can still take steps that limit the stress-inducing effects of email. I find it better to chip away at my inbox for 10 minutes in the morning and 10 at night rather than put it off and have 1,000 emails waiting for me upon my return.
I also make a point of not checking my email on my phone during that time when I'm supposed to be truly "unplugged."
6. Enjoy your vacation time.
I work a bit on vacation because, paradoxically, it allows me to relax. I'm a triple type A personality so this could just be me but I find that it works well. Once my work, even if it's only 30 minutes of emails and brief calls, is done, I make a point of disconnecting and being fully present in the moment and with those with whom I'm traveling.
Your vacation time is precious, so make the most of it.
7. Don't get down on yourself for working on your vacation.
Some may scoff at the idea of working on vacation, but a Glassdoor survey shows that two-thirds of us do it anyway. For business owners, I find this to be rather common if not essential to some degree.
Of course, for you vacation may mean taking a complete break from email, work and your phone. If that's the case, I applaud any steps you can take to pull that off.
For me, I'll stay at least semi-plugged for my vacations and work a little work in while out of the office. Some of my best memories in life come from the moments shared with others while on vacations.
What I remember the most from these times is not the work I did but the quality moments I shared.