How to Unplug During a Vacation (Really.)

Share By Sachin Shenolikar

Your hard-earned beach vacation is finally here. The long flight is behind you. Your eyes soak in the beautiful ocean scene ahead.

So why can’t you stop thinking about work?

“The modern corporate environment can put massive pressure on you to be available at their beck and call, whether you’re taking a staycation or going to a Caribbean island with zero phone reception and spotty Wi-Fi,” says life coach Jay Cataldo. “[But] if you don’t unplug, you won’t get the full benefits of the vacation: new insights, a sharper mind and a renewed interest in work.”

So how do you keep your vacation enjoyable and restful without falling behind at your job? Cataldo and other life coaches give us their best suggestions.

1. Block it out: Susan Shapiro recommends breaking up your waking hours into three-hour segments. “It’s either a work segment or a play segment, and they do not overlap,” she says. “This maximizes energy use so when the person is working, they’re effective, and they also have the opportunity to recharge.”

Take advantage of your “play” segments to do meaningful, creative activities that you’ve wanted to focus on but have not been able to because of work. “Devote one or more of those time segments to that,” says Shapiro.

You could also use your “play” time to catch up on Zs. “Don’t forget to sleep as much as humanly possible,” says Cataldo. “This will be some of the most restorative sleep you can have.”

2. Create Boundaries: Only let essential people know where you are going and how to reach you. Communicate clearly to your boss and your employees that you’ll only be available at certain times of the day.

“That forces people underneath you to be more effective and organized and you are respected more by the people above you,” says Shapiro. “When everyone respects their use of time, the whole chain of command works better.”

Important: Don’t budge from the rules you set. “If you tell people that you are only responding to emails at 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., don’t email people at 1 p.m. You’ll open the floodgates,” says life coach Nicole Burley.

Also, be confident that the office will not fall apart if you’re away for a few days and that most “urgent” issues are not actually urgent. “Resist the urge to keep checking your phone,” says Cataldo. “Ninety-nine percent of the time, the issue can wait.”

For those who are addicted to their gadgets, life coach Annie Lin recommends the Freedom app, which can block Internet access for several hours at a time.

3. Keep it simple: Overpacking can add stress to your vacation. “Leave anything at home that will distract you from either relaxing or just doing the work that needs to be done,” says Shapiro.

“Whenever you notice that your attention drifts back to your office affairs, use your sensory system to look, listen, smell, feel and taste what’s actually in front of you,” adds Lin.

4. Make it an extended break: A vacation day here or there can be nice, but you won’t get the full recharging benefits without a full week away from home and the office. “It will take your body at least two or three days just to realize that it’s in a new place and that it’s okay to start relaxing,” says Cataldo. “For most people, a weekend vacation might be fun, but it won’t give them the recharge time their body desperately needs.”

5. Change it up: It can be beneficial to travel to a spot that’s completely different from your home base. “The whole point of taking a vacation is to unplug from our daily routine,” says Lin. “Unfamiliar cultures and environments help us to wake up our senses and to stay fully alert and present.”

“Soak it all in — the different schedule, the change of scenery,” adds Burley. “Give yourself permission to enjoy yourself. Read if you want to read. Nap if you want to nap. Think about what recharging would feel like for you, and then set about making that happen.”

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