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Preventing Vacation Self-Sabotage

20 June 2023

Janie read all the Allison Partners blog posts about “vacation” and considered what she needs to do differently next month to come back from vacation feeling refreshed and recharged.

Tags: balance, janie read, vacation

Vacation self-sabotage is a big issue for me. In the nine years I’ve worked for Allison Partners, I can only remember one vacation where I successfully disconnected from email and didn’t “cheat” and check while I was away. This trip was in 2015. (I had to double check the date by looking through pictures, because I couldn’t believe it’s been so long!) Since then, I don’t think I’ve taken a consecutive week of vacation. I’ve taken time off, but always as a shorter break, usually taking a few days off on either side of the weekend. Most of the time I come back to work feeling stressed and anxious, not refreshed and renewed. Clearly, Allison Partners believes strongly in vacation and role models what it looks like to vacation well. I’m not sure why disconnecting has been so difficult for me, but this year, I’m determined to do things differently.

I’ve taken a full week off work and planned a trip to Smith Mountain Lake. I tried to be thoughtful about what was most important while also not overengineering our plans. My top two criteria were being near water (being around water brings me peace in a way nothing else does) and being able to bring Smokey (our dog, who brings me so much joy). I spent weeks looking at options and finally found a spot that seems like it will be a great fit for us. We’ll be bringing our canoe and kayak and plan to spend a lot of time on the water. I’m also planning to completely disconnect from my email. To help me do this (and to remind me why it’s so important) I read Allison’s favorite vacation article, Vacation Sabotage: Don’t Let It Happen to You! by Matt Richtel.

This is a great article with tons of practical tips to make disconnecting feel less daunting, along with scientific data about why it can be so difficult. In the section “Stop Flirting With Work” Jonathan Schooler, a psychology professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara shared a story that really resonated with me. “A recent family trip to Norway intended for relaxation became an exercise in frustration instead because he thought he could fit in a little work along the way. He’d take out his laptop, fiddle, not get much done or just think about the work he’d promised himself he’d do. But he didn’t do it. And he never fully relaxed either.”

photo from my last fully disconnected vacation in 2015

This sounds just like me. I’ll tell myself I can’t fully disconnect because of XX, but then I find myself always thinking about work and I never really relax. I’ve also tried being deliberate about checking email only once in the morning and then ignoring it for the rest of the day, but I can never stick to this. I usually end up spending more time on email than I would like, but also not getting much accomplished, so I end up feeling stressed and it doesn’t help me when I return to the office.

This year, I will be disconnecting from email for the week and I won’t be taking my laptop on the trip. I know not having my laptop will help, but I’ll still have my phone. Knowing myself, I know that I need to have a plan to make sure I’m not tempted to check email on my phone. To help me with this, I plan to follow the suggestion in the article to “make a point to change your relationship with your device. Maybe leave it in one place and refuse to tote it arond all day…Whatever you decide, see your gadget for what it is—a copper wire straight into the life you’re trying to escape.”

I found this quote really powerful. I don’t know exactly what my phone plan will be, but I have a few weeks to figure it out. At minimum, I know I’ll be hiding the email icon in a folder, so I don’t see it first thing when I look at my phone. (Rachel gave me this brilliant idea many years ago, but I haven’t done it in quite some time.) I also really like the idea of leaving my phone behind unless I want to be able to take pictures. I’m determined to spend time being present with my family and enjoying the peaceful atmosphere. I’ll report back next month on how it goes and what I learned from the experience. If this is something you’re also interested in trying and you’d like an accountability buddy, please reach out to me. I’d love to discuss disconnection strategies and provide support for each other.



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