The word “vacation” used to be a very hallowed word. In 1989, as a fledgling member of the corporate world, I took my first business vacation. People respected my vacation time. When someone tried to assign me new work the day before I was scheduled to leave, for example, they would sheepishly apologize and scurry away from my office when I mentioned that I was going on vacation soon. Playing the “vacation” card was like tossing some kryptonite to Superman; people left you alone. Well, you can kiss those days goodbye! In 1989, there was no e-mail. There were no cellphones. There was no such thing as a “global marketplace” or a “wireless business environment.” It was absolutely impossible to work from home.
Today, people take vacations in hourly increments. Isn’t that hilarious? “Ted, I’ll be on vacation from noon to 1 p.m. tomorrow, otherwise I’ll be working from home.” What is that about? There’s no such thing as a vacation anymore. When you tell your co-workers, “Sorry, I don’t have time to look at that, I’m leaving for vacation today,” they unabashedly give it to you anyway with a “I’ll call you on your cell” or a “Shoot me an e-mail when you have a minute.”
For travelers, this is doubly hard. All of your co-workers believe you’re on vacation all the time anyway, since you lead such a “glamorous traveling lifestyle.” They’ll think nothing of dumping all kinds of crap into your inbox at all times of the day or night. When a business traveler goes on an actual vacation (which might mean he’s just locking himself up in his own house with his wife for a week), he has to work twice as hard to “hide.” Here’s what I do:
- Take an extra day of vacation at the end of your vacation to prepare for going back to work. If you take a week off, take the following Monday off too. You can use it to sift/sort the BS out of your e-mail box and to prioritize the rest of your week while you sip coffee in your new silk jammies that you bought on your vacation.
- Since there’s no way to completely shut yourself off from the world in the digital age, set aside a very specific unit of time each day to check the few important things that you feel you need to do to stay sane. I spend 30 minutes before bedtime; catching up with the handful of Web sites I contribute to, checking e-mail, etc. No more than 30 minutes, tops.
- Get a disposable cell phone. With a disposable phone, you can give the number to friends, family, emergency contacts, etc., and leave your evil PDA (with all of its appointments and reminders and e-mail access) at home.
- Get multiple e-mail addresses. If you haven’t done this already, it’s a necessary thing in today’s world. I have three and I rigidly enforce their use. One is for all things corporate and ONLY things corporate. Another is for friends, family, neighbors, church, and volunteer commitments. The last is strictly for ordering things from the Internet. It collects junk like you wouldn’t believe and the only thing I EVER read from it is receipts. While on vacation, commit to only checking the “Friends and Family” e-mail.
- Get a Facebook page. Here I can update my friends with what’s going on while I’m on vacation, post photos, etc. Updating a travel blog or Facebook page helps my brain feel as though I’ve “worked” when I actually haven’t.
- Do not call, reply, forward, or send messages, e-mail, voicemail, or chat messages to ANYONE at work. If you do, they’ll know how to find you and worse, they’ll assume you’re open to work!
EXTRA: If you have questions for Ken regarding business travel, hotels, airplanes, etc., please call 1-877-49-EXPERT. Your questions will be recorded and Ken will answer the best ones in his Ask the Expert podcast show.