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Clear Your Conscience and Your Inbox: How to Get Away From Work and Relax

Today’s working world seems to be driven by a sense of shame. You have to be seen to be the first to arrive in the office and the last to leave, every day. Vacations are for those who just don’t care enough about their work. All this can be very destructive for physical, emotional, and social well-being. If we are going to operate effectively, we need periods of rest and recuperation, without feeling bad about them.

Focus the Mind

Once you have decided on a vacation, you should immediately start to work on the assumption that you deserve it. That will set you up for the things that you have to do before you go. Do not feel guilty about the holiday you have chosen—it is for you and your family alone. Just because your colleague is trekking across Nepal (it will look good on his résumé) doesn’t mean that you should feel that your week by the beach at the Marriott Resort in Hilton Head is any less worthy.

Plan the Work

About two weeks before you leave, start to manage your To Do list. Because you are looking forward to a break soon, you might find that you have a little more energy to confront it.

If there are things on the back burner which you know you are never going to do, delete or delegate them now.

If there are things that you can foresee will become issues when you travel, pre-empt them if possible; otherwise, agree with colleagues how they will be handled. It may be the time to call in some favors if you need to dump things on someone else’s desk.

Prioritize the things that really have to be done before you go. The rest can wait till you are back.

Manage the Contacts

In this age, it is almost impossible to be completely uncontactable. Agree on the circumstances in which you can be contacted, and by whom. Only one person (your boss or, if you are the boss, your deputy) should have permission to contact you, except in predefined circumstances. If possible, only turn on your phone at agreed times.

Decide what you are going to do about your emails, and stick by your decision. For most people, it works best to have a complete break from work emails. For some, this can induce a state of anxiety which interferes with the relaxing purpose of the vacation. In that case, it may be acceptable to your family if you spend a few minutes, every second or third day, going through your inbox. Just deleting all the unnecessary posts can be quite therapeutic.

Return Refreshed

A few days away, if they are genuinely relaxing, can be truly beneficial to yourself, your family, and your work. Fix your mind into a positive attitude to your vacation, plan efficiently, and stick to your intentions while you are away. You will return a better worker and happier person as a result.