When You Find Yourself Surfing the Web More than the Waves: How to Actually Disconnect on Vacation & Not Return Home Overwhelmed

By Kate Connors, Senior Account Manager & Social Media Strategist at Media & Communications Strategies, Inc.

Merriam-Webster defines the word vacation as “a period of time that a person spends away from home, school or business usually in order to relax or travel.” Yet for those of us in the communications industry, we occasionally find ourselves spending less time relaxing and more time worrying about what is happening in the office without us. Although our offices may have run like a well-oiled machine before we came on board, many of us PR professionals still find ourselves in a pre-vacation panic spiral that the machine will fall to pieces without us.

I used to be what one would call a “repeat offender.” The crime: promising my family that I would be “completely offline” on vacation and then sneaking off to find a place on the beach that gets enough reception to check my work emails. But after being caught on one of these excursions by my family and then seeing that their faces looked more disappointed than when I used to feed the seagulls as a child, I realized it was time to change. Below are a few tips I use to actually enjoy my vacation, without feeling like I have let my team down or have fallen excruciatingly behind.

  1. Prioritize Tasks for You and Your Team – Most Americans consider a week or two week vacation a “long trip.” But five days away from the office is only one percent of the entire year, which means that there are definitely some projects and assignments that can wait until you return! Prioritize your client and administrative responsibilities and then divide the work that does need to be completed while you are off between your team members. If you usually oversee a weekly client call, make sure you spend time with the team member who is handling the call in your absence before you leave so they are comfortable taking the lead. I usually try to block off a period of time a couple days before I leave town to review assignments and calls with my coworkers so everyone feels ready for your vacation.
  2. Make a List of Cautions and Concerns – As much as we try to prepare our team and our clients for absence, the occasional crisis or necessary action does arise. If you are the member of your team who interfaces the most with a particular client, make a cautionary list about that account and how you have handled certain situations in the past. This may seem like overkill for a vacation but it has other uses as well. It can be a great tool for mentoring younger staff members and for you to reference as you face new clients and challenges.
  3. Designate a Time for Email Review – I am sure some people will disagree with me on this one but I think it is extremely important to set aside 15/20 minutes each day (if you can) to review your work emails. If you are an obsessive email checker like me, knowing you have that allotted time will make you less likely to spend your vacation with your face in your laptop or smart phone. Alternatively, if you are someone who is a bit more of a tortoise than a hare when it comes to email checking, setting aside this time to sort emails will help you feel less overwhelmed when you do return to the office. I have yet to encounter the individual who actually enjoys opening their Outlook and seeing 3,000 unopened email messages.
  4. Add a “Vacation Recovery” Day – We’ve all been there – you return from your week long vacation late Sunday night and your relaxed state of mind immediately evaporates when you realize how much you have to do to prepare for Monday, both personally and professionally. If you can, try and schedule a “recovery” day at the end of your vacation, especially if you are going to be way from home more than a week. This way you can have a stay-cation before you return to the office and get caught up without the pressure of having to jump right back in. You’ll find yourself much more rested and focused and you won’t spend your first day back wondering when you’ll have time to buy groceries for the week and do your laundry.

So as you start packing your suitcases for your own vacation, remember all the work you put in every other day of year that earned you this time off. With a little preparation and delegation, you can actually enjoy your vacation and return to work rested and ready to go!