Handy tips on how to disconnect from work on vacation

Disconnect on vacation

A few Instagrams here and there won’t hurt, but checking your emails every 10 minutes might. Source: Shutterstock

SOMETIMES disconnecting from work while on vacation is easier said than done. 

And when throwing your phone into the ocean isn’t a viable method, you need to look at other ways to switch off and enjoy the restorative break that a vacation is supposed to be. If you actually take a vacation, that is.

A report released last year revealed one in five American workers left vacation days unused and three in 10 said if they do take a vacation, they stay connected to work responsibilities while away.

Malaysian’s aren’t much better at taking vacations either.

Back in January, a British Airways survey found that out of 2,000 respondents, the majority kept vacations to a maximum of five to nine days. Of those who claimed to have holidayed, 75 percent said they wish they hadn’t left the office at all due to an unmanageable amount of work on their return.

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You could argue that working professionals of the 21st century who are brave enough to take time off, remedy their absence by staying connected while away.

And all of life’s technological conveniences make staying connected not only possible but easy.

Ultra-fast connections, power banks juicing up our devices and a deep-rooted fear of missing out (FOMO) all contribute to the anxiety of being disconnected.

But just because technology allows us to stay online every waking moment, doesn’t mean we should, especially when it comes to vacationing.

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You’re supposed to be creating memories, spending quality time with loved ones, and exploring new cultures, not checking if Deborah from finance received the client invoices or making sure the intern threw out the milk over the weekend.

If you’re guilty of staying connected to your professional life when you should be making the most of your leisure time, or you just feel completely addicted to your phone, these are some helpful tips on how to disconnect and make the most of being offline.

Vacation somewhere with a slow connection

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A recent study from global travel agency Trip.com found that Thailand and Mongolia are among the top places in the world to disconnect from work.

Why? Because they have the highest number of hotels that aren’t equipped with WiFi services.

Trip.com found that 6 percent of its accommodation listings in Thailand had no WiFi and 12 percent of listings in Mongolia weren’t fitted with wireless services.

If you force yourself to travel somewhere with little or no internet connection, you physically won’t be able to check emails.

Getting offline will allow you to see the world in a whole new way, without the familiar image of a phone screen getting in the way.

Tell everyone you’re on holiday

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There’s nothing more annoying than forgetting to set your “out-of-office” email and having a string of angry people raising their professional pitchforks in frustrated follow-up emails.

But when you do remember to set it, ensure that your out-of-office email thoroughly explains the dates you’ll be away and provides sufficient contacts for the sender to reach instead.

It’s also a good idea to remind your colleagues and management that you’re going away. While they might think you’re vacation-bragging, you’re actually hinting at the fact that they should not contact you for a week.

Work a little harder before you leave

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Staying an extra hour in the office every night the week before your vacation is much better than working through your break.

Whether it’s finishing that important proposal, writing a descriptive handover for when you’re gone or getting everything ticked off your to-do list, putting a bit more effort in will mean a stress-free vacation.

Unless you miss your flight, then you’ll be stressed. So don’t miss your flight.

Try reverse psychology on yourself

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Much like negotiating with a child who doesn’t understand why they can’t eat dessert first, you might need to convince yourself not to work.

One successful method is telling yourself that taking full advantage of this vacation and switching off from work will ultimately make you a better worker.

The more you tell yourself this, the more likely you are to chill out and not return as stressed as you were when you left.

Take a pledge

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Whether you’re traveling alone or with others, take an oath to reduce screen time, whether its promising to only check your emails once a day, or swearing to not mindlessly scroll through Instagram until your FOMO is so intense you spoil the vacation for yourself.

A good way to stick to this pledge is to create forfeits for those who break it.

Download some screen-time avoidance apps

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It may sound contradictory, but apps are a great incentive to stay off your phone.

Forest, for example, is an app which lets you plant a virtual tree and the longer you stay off your phone, the more the tree will grow.

You can end up growing a whole virtual forest with each tree representing a period you resisted using your phone.

Add an extra layer of difficulty

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Have you ever opened an app and thought, “I don’t remember doing that?” We all have.

As our phones become our fifth limb, we use them through muscle memory, as opposed to actually thinking about what we’re doing.

However, to avoid finding yourself “accidentally” three months deep in a stranger’s Instagram page, log out of all your accounts before you go away.

This added layer of annoyance will remind you why you didn’t want to access your accounts in the first place.