How to Really Disconnect from Work While on Vacation

When you have a day or two off for a holiday, it can be hard to really disconnect from work even when the office is supposed to be closed. But taking a day off and really using it to recharge will help you more in the long run then sending everyone emails they have to pretend not to read. Here are five suggestions to help you not just shut off your cubicle light, but really mentally step away from work on a day off:

1. Don’t check your email.

I know it’s hard. It’s tempting to see what you’re missing, check in on projects, or see just how dramatically the office is falling apart without you. But you only get a few days off per year. In order to really rejuvenate while you’re out of the office so you can be focused when you return, it’s really important to have the willpower now to not constantly be scrolling through messages about upcoming webinars. If you’re too nervous to not check your email at all, set aside a designated half-hour at the end of the day to catch up instead of refreshing your phone every twenty minutes.

2. Be fully present.

When you are with family from out-of-town or catching up with friends you’re always too busy to see, make sure that you are available for them while you’re together. That means not constantly checking competitor stats, worrying about your performance review, or replying to an email that can certainly wait until you’re back in the office. Leave your phone in your purse during meals. Even try something drastic like turning it off. By taking these steps while you’re with the people you care about, you’re showing them that you value their company enough to be mentally and emotionally present.

3. Reconnect with outside passions.

If you’re working from 8am to 10pm, it’s tough to also fit in playing the guitar or going to the art museum. But you do have passions outside your job, and they’re important. Use a day off as a way to remember what drives you outside of work. Maybe there’s a hike or recipe you’ve been wanting to try. Maybe you used to sketch or take photos of your neighborhood, but you can never find the time. In between time with family, a holiday morning is a great time to pull out that old journal or puzzle book. Breaking from what you are constantly fixated gives you a chance to build other parts of the brain – ones that will help in your job, too.

4. Try something different.

In your weekday routine, you have to do the same things the same way just to get to work on time and still look halfway decent. When you have a day off, there’s no reason to still eat the breakfast bar you don’t really like and do the same run that doesn’t really challenge you. Routines are familiar and comforting, but they also don’t push you. Use a day off as a chance to try something new that might make your everyday routine better. Maybe making hot breakfast isn’t as hard as you thought it was, or maybe today’s the day to check out that new yoga studio. Taking those small steps on days when you’re not rushing to a meeting or panicked about emails are a nice way to shift small parts of your routine without totally throwing you off.

5. Practice mindfulness.

An old boss had this saying framed on her wall: “You do enough. You are enough. You have enough.” Between all the craziness of everyday life, it’s so easy to feel you’re running out of work, are behind, aren’t paid enough, don’t earn your wage, are out of your skill range or aren’t moving up fast enough. But those thoughts are really distractions. It’s so important to take a minute to give yourself credit, and to allow yourself to relax. Another favorite mantra of mine is: “There is nothing to do. There is nothing to be done. Have a rest and be ordinary and be natural.” It’s okay to take days off. Neither the world nor your career will end if someone has to wait a few days for a reply to an email. Really, I promise. Maintaining perspective helps you make better decisions, so allow yourself the space necessary to do so with grace. You’re really helping your career more by learning to step away.

I hope these tips lead to a more restful, enjoyable few days off for the holidays – or, if you’re working New Year’s Eve, any day off in the future. And you over there, with the phone in your hand? You better not be checking your email.

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