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Stop Ruining Your Vacations

31 July 2012

Allison read Matt Richtel’s Vacation Sabotage: Don’t Let It Happen to You! from the 29 June 2012 New York Times and was relieved to learn some practical tips for helping her clients actually enjoy vacation so they can return to work rested and restored.

Tags: allison read, balance, happiness, leadership, vacation

I’m teaching our three-day Choosing Balance and Leadership course this week. As usual, the participants and I have a healthy debate about whether or not they should check email while they are on vacation. Most of them fear getting behind while they are away or missing something important. They also dread returning to an inbox that will ruin their first few days back or even the whole first week. I tell them about the benefits of leaving email behind and how they need to break their addiction to the technological dopamine hits. I encourage them to add an extra day or two to the end of their vacation where they work on email at home in their pajamas and put all the replies in the draft folder so they can press send when they get back to work. I ask them to try a vacation for one week without email and see how they feel. Maybe it won’t be as bad as they think. You get the picture. It’s always a vigorous conversation about the pros and cons. Ultimately, I tell them to handle it in whatever way they think will work best for them, but I remind them that they came to class for new ideas and to try new behaviors. I think I convince a few, but on the whole I’ve known I need more suggestions to help me persuade them.


I just got a copy of Leslie Perlow’s new book, Sleeping With Your Smartphone: How to Break the 24/7 Habit and Change the Way You Work. I’m familiar with the study she did with the Boston Consulting Group on this topic and the progress BCG was able to make toward changing the way they work so I’m excited to read what she has to say. However, until then, I’m delighted I can tell my class to read Matt Richtel’s four-page article, because it has some great tips for how to disconnect during your vacation so that you actually enjoy yourself and return to work restored. He tapped into the wisdom of several neuroscientists, behavior experts and even business executives to learn why our brains have such a hard time taking a vacation and what we can do to help our brains get on the vacation train. You really should read this article and it won’t take you very long so I’m just going to include a few of his concepts here that are likely to mystify but also tantalize:

  • start now (you have to practice letting go a little every day if you want to be able to let go for a week so read what he has to say and check out my recent blog post on mindfulness to learn how)
  • endure the boredom (don’t worry… he tells you why and how to do this)
  • stop preparing for your own death before you leave (don’t empty your in-box, clean your house, eliminate all the piles in your life, finish many big projects and make lots of plans for when you return)
  • channel the three-day weekend

I'm writing this post while my participants are on their lunch break. I’ll give it to them when they return at 2:30pm and ask them to read the article tonight. I’ll share their feedback tomorrow so stay tuned. I’m hopeful I might help them (and you) enjoy your next vacation.


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Allison Partners
Sep 22, 2012

Many of my participants were still really anxious about the consequences of not checking their email during vacation. However, they also agreed that Richtel made a powerful argument and has lots of practical tips. I’ll confess that their anxiety about not checking email makes me think that’s exactly why everyone should give it a try at least once. Do we really want email to have this kind of power over our lives?


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