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The Joy and Anxiety of Email-Free Vacations

21 February 2017

Allison read Why I Ignored Email for a Month in preparation for her upcoming email-free vacation at the beach and was grateful for another reminder of why taking a break from email is so hard and so important.

Tags: allison read, balance, email, vacation

I’ve been taking email-free vacations for many years. In the beginning, it was hard to imagine how a solo consultant could do that and still have a business to return to. As my business grew, I worried about not helping my clients with something important while I was away or missing out on a new and exciting opportunity if I didn’t respond quickly.

Eventually, I realized that the risks of taking a break from email were far outweighed by the benefits. I come back from these vacations refreshed in ways I struggle to describe. My fears that my inbox would be unmanageable were unfounded. Also, my clients and others have always been supportive. They often can’t conceive of how I’ll do it, but they don’t begrudge me for trying as long as I warn them it’s happening and make sure they have a plan for what to do if something comes up while I’m away.

So the idea of turning off my email tomorrow morning before I go to Cancún tomorrow for a five-day midwinter break shouldn’t be that hard for me. I’ve turned off email for as many as twelve days and everything was okay. But today, as my anxiety increased about disconnecting, I needed a reminder of why this is so important to me. First, I read the testimonials of two clients who shared reactions to their first email-free vacations. Their stories helped me to stop fantasizing about the possibility of doing a little email each day while I'm away.

Then I read, Why I Ignored Email for a Month. While I can’t imagine wanting to take a month off from email, I know some people who crave that kind of disconnection so I’m grateful for Patrick McCathary’s summary of the reasons it’s important to take a break from email as well as some specific advice on how exactly to let go. Also, while McCathary’s insights are based on a full month away from email, I have experienced many of the benefits he describes even when I disconnect for a much shorter period of time.

Additionally, this quote grounded me today as I started to feel worried about the emails I still needed to deal with before I left town, “But hypervigilant connection comes at a cost. The more we tune in to our iPhones, iPads, and other mobile devices, the more we tune out and disconnect from the people and places around us. We interact with others in-person with divided and shortened attention spans, under the false pretext that we are somehow more engaged through constant electronic attachment.”

I don’t need a month away, but I do need these five days and staying awake longer tonight to catch up on email before I leave is really not necessary. The urgent things have been done. The rest can wait until next week when my attention span is restored. Thanks, Patrick. I needed that.


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