Take a Vacation From Email

Pool and Barn/Gym at High Meadow Farm, Washington Depo, CT

Last summer a client that I really respect apologized for not responding to an email message more quickly.  He said he had been on vacation and he was working on his “work-life balance.”

I recently read that travel industry trend watchers say that in the near future there will be high end resorts that are “digital black holes” where cell and Wi-Fi signals are blocked.

Brad Feld calls it “going off the grid” when he unplugs from email for a few days and he does it at least once every quarter.

When I’m attending out of town business meetings clients and colleagues frequently rush back to their rooms after dinner just to keep from falling behind on email.

So for my vacation this year I tried to take an email sabbatical; I only had partial success, I hope you can do better.

The Hickory Stick Bookshop, Washington Depo, Connecticut

The most important reason for taking a break from email during vacation is so that you can be truly present for your family.  The kids see me on email plenty during the working part of the year.  Shouldn’t I be able to walk away from it for just one week?  And there is more and more evidence that we aren’t as good at multitasking as we think.  When you’re on the computer during your vacation both your vacation and the work probably suffer.

Peter Bregman’s book 18 Minutes is an excellent examination of the importance of focus for getting anything meaningful accomplished.  A good family vacation requires focus too.

I started this year’s ten-day family vacation fairly caught up.  Maybe this is why I looked at messages for the first couple of days, so that I could keep my in-box “clean” and not get too far behind.  I also participated in a conference call, but it didn’t feel right, I wasn’t in the game, either game.

Even if you don’t respond to an email it takes your attention while you read it and while you unavoidably think about it for the next few moments or over the next few days if it is really thought-provoking, good or bad.

My advice to you this summer is to take a total break from email during your vacation.  Be sure to warn your colleagues and key clients or collaborators that you will be taking a break, but then just turn it off.  You shouldn’t have to apologize for taking a vacation from email when you are on vacation.

If you want a second opinion, check out the podcast from Michael Hyatt, 7 Steps to Getting the Most from Your Vacation.

Many of us are now in the habit of looking at our smart phones almost constantly.  I’m afraid to see actual data on how often people check their devices.  On our family vacation I noticed how frequently the middle generation checked their devices, and I think the grandparents were a little baffled by it, understandably so.

Shephaug River, Connecticut

I looked at email for a few days and then decided to completely tune it out.  One strategy for avoiding email is to use the camera on your smart phone.  When you instinctively go to check your email, go to your photos instead.  Organize them, edit them, share them.  Innovation brings good and bad, it’s not necessarily good that our email goes on vacation with us, but always having your camera at your fingertips can be a good thing.  I’m taking many more pictures now that my phone is also my camera.

Congress Hall, Cape May, New Jersey

In the end our vacation was great.  We experienced new and beautiful places, spent lots of time in the outdoors, enjoyed delicious food – both family creations and restaurants, and most importantly we spent time with the ones we love.

Books read on vacation 2012:

  • Learned Optimism, Martin E. P. Seligman, Ph.D.
  • Thomas Jefferson, author unknown.  This book was in the library of High Meadow Farm, but I can’t find the title in Amazon so I don’t know who wrote it.  A very readable Jefferson biography.

Music list for vacation 2012:

  • The Hangover Part II: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
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2 Responses to Take a Vacation From Email

  1. Great stuff. The insight about totally disconnecting from email is super important. The “keep the inbox clean” problem isn’t good enough – there’s just no reason to do this and it keeps pulling your mind back to work.

    It’s like a long workout – your brain is often all over the place for the first 30 minutes but once you get into the flow of the run, bike, or swim, you stop bouncing around and just go with the flow. The same thing happens after a few days of no email – you don’t even notice you don’t have it.

  2. Pingback: The Real Paul Jones » Catching up with #noemail

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