I just returned from my spring vacation for the year – this year we went to Ireland for a week.
One thing that became clear quickly was that I had to turn off my work e-mail. I happen to use an iPhone and IBM is allowing me to configure it for IBM Traveler – which sends my Lotus Notes e-mail directly to my phone. While this is fantastic when I’m working it is really distracting when on vacation. Every time I connected the phone to a hotspot in a hotel I got reminded of my work. So at the end of Day 2 I turned off my work e-mail. What a difference! You wouldn’t believe how different a vacation feels when you’re not constantly reminded of the amount of work that is accumulating for you at your (virtual) desk when you get home.
Now while I was out I did keep up with industry news through my trusted RSS reader (Reeder on the iPad). Interestingly enough there were quite a few articles how Americans not only not have as much vacation time as other countries (I remember in Germany we had 6 weeks and in Austria 5 weeks – government mandated) but that a lot of Americans don’t even take the 2 or 3 weeks that they have. I still remember one of my first VPs in the US – in his all hands call just before Christmas he said: “you owe it not only to yourself but to the company to take all the vacation that you have”. And he was right. Coming back from a week of total disconnect I find myself much more focused and ready to deal with whatever is coming my way. I would even take it one step further: when taking a vacation try to take 2 weeks at once. I know that for a lot of people this is impossible – but once you earn more vacation time you should really think about this. I find that it takes almost 3 full days to stop thinking about things at work when I go on vacation. And about 3 days before I return I start thinking about what awaits me at my desk. Which leaves about 1 day for true relaxation in a 1 week vacation.
So what have I learned? Well, I’m looking forward to my next vacation which will be 2 weeks. And I will turn off my work e-mail the moment I turn on the Out of Office notification.