Thanks to technology, the lines between “work” and “home” are blurred at best, and often not existent whatsoever; we have the ability to work from anywhere, at any time, so we end up working everywhere, at all times.
It’s no wonder we’re seeing more and more research on burnout—a condition the World Health Organization now recognizes as a legitimate medical diagnosis. While many factors contribute to burnout (lack of control, lack of appreciation, lack of growth, chronic perfectionism), a long-term pattern of working too much and resting too little naturally plays a sizeable role.
Our tendency to work, work, work becomes more obvious than ever this time of year: vacation season!
Whether you take a trip to the opposite side of the globe or opt for a stay-cation, are you able to truly disconnect from your work? Or do all your gadgets and gizmos scream so many updates at you that you might as well be back at the office?
The key to a truly relaxing summer vacation is to enjoy technology in moderation. Here’s where to draw the lines.
What to embrace
For most of us, avoiding technology altogether while we’re on vacation is not an option—it’s not realistic, and frankly it’s not fun. Here are a few items to add to your vacation packing checklist:
- eReaders. Even if you prefer physical books over eReaders, the practical benefit of bringing one of these devices along is obvious: you can’t fit a library in your suitcase, but you can load dozens upon dozens of books onto your Kindle or your Nook. I’d recommend an eReader that uses “Electronic Ink,” which you’ll still be able to read glare-free out in the sunshine, and won’t disrupt your sleep with blue light.
- Amazon Fire TV Stick (or Chromecast or Roku Streaming Stick). I’ve recently started binge-watching Mr. Robot, and wasn’t about to let my vacation stand in the way of my progress! Use these devices—which are barely bigger than your standard thumb drive—to bring your favorite movies and TV shows along with you.
- Rapid-charging bricks. It’s of course important to bring your regular charging cables, but when you’re on the go you’ll be well-served by a rapid-charging brick with a couple USB plugs. They’re not expensive, and they’ll keep your devices at full power even if you only have a short time to charge them. A “power bank” is worth some consideration too.
What to avoid
A vacation isn’t a vacation if you work the whole time. The key is to allow yourself—no, force yourself—to disconnect from work, be present, relax, and recharge. Here’s how:
- Remove your work applications entirely. Take Slack off of your smartphone. Turn off your work email (and your personal email too if you can). Even if your coworkers have a full-blown emergency, they can reach you by phone or text message.
- Control your notifications. Dial back the number of intrusive notifications you’ll get while you’re away. Turn off real-time news alerts. Only allow your “favorite” contacts to get through with a phone call. Don’t let your applications steal your focus.
- Leave your laptop at home. What are the chances you’ll need to do any hardcore computing while you’re supposed to be away? Some executives I know will bring their tablet along with them just in case, but almost all will leave their work machine at home. Remove the temptation—and the risk that something will happen to that device along the way.
- If you must… block “work” time and don’t waver. If for whatever reason you honest-to-goodness cannot make it through your vacation without working, schedule blocks of dedicated work time. Start when you planned to start, and stop when you planned to stop. That way you will be truly focused and productive, and more importantly, can get back to the business of having fun when you are done.
Now go and make some memories!
As originally published in the American City Business Journals.