Holiday Time: How To Switch Off Work In 5 Steps

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We’re off on a family holiday in four sleeps time for EIGHT WHOLE DAYS and I’m already wondering whether I’ll be able to switch off from work or not. Relaxation has always been a bit of an alien concept to me.

I’ve spent the past few weeks laying down the groundwork for a successful week off work, so I can switch off completely, but I’m still debating whether or not to take the laptop with me to sneak in that interview with Del Amitri next Wednesday, and I mean really? Who am I kidding? Can I honestly switch off from work for 8 whole days? In all probability, I will be checking my emails by day two, terrified of the workload mounting up in my absence.

If you're like me, then we both need to learn to take a step back and have some proper time out, not just for the kids’ sake, but for our sakes too. It’s a chance to take a moment to reflect, breathe and slow down. And enjoy yourself. 

That guilt-evoking quote by Jessica Scott gets me every time. You’ll know the one, it goes: ‘We get 18 delicious summers with our children. This is one of your 18. If that’s not perspective, I don’t know what is.’ This quote plays on my mind a lot, reminding me of all the times I haven’t been there for my kids because of work. Jessica Scott, I’m happy that you got to spend all 18 summers hanging out with your kids every single moment, and don't get me wrong, the sentiment is great, but for some of us with jobs, it’s not always possible to switch off from work, and feeling guilty about it doesn't help matters.

After much thought, here are my tips for the big holiday switch-off:

Put on your out of office

And don't neglect this part. It's tip number one after all. Your out-of-office will help to manage expectations. People will just have to wait until you're back. Don't commit to checking emails intermittently, (even if you are) but instead, include a colleague's email address, so they have a point of contact if anything's urgent.

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A good handover.

I'm talking about that really kind and useful colleague again - the one you can depend on when you're supposed to be enjoying yourself on holiday. In my case, it's my sister, so she'll be on hand to deal with everything in my absence. Get organised before you go, and tie up as many loose ends as possible. I've spent the past week battling my inbox down to under 30 emails (impressive for me), and giving all regular and close connections the heads up that I'll be away and please, please - do not disturb. (I haven't been on holiday since 2018.)

Update your voicemail, keep screentime to a minimum

Anybody calling is going to hopefully 1) not leave a voicemail, and 2) not bother you again until you're back. Social media is a huge part of my job, so if I'm online, the chances are, I will be in work mode for a few minutes at a time at least, checking messages, and notifications, blah, blah, blah. Step away from your phone! 

If you have to check emails, follow these rules

Having time out is so important, so if you’re in my shoes, let’s make a pact, right here, right now. If you're part of a small business like mine, and you really can’t 100% switch off from work, you may check your emails, but there are conditions to this, you'll thank me for one day. You must only check work emails in the morning before the kids are up, or last thing in the evening when they’re in bed. Don't spend more than 20 minutes on this, and definitely don't check them daily. Kids know when you're not supposed to be working, so spend those waking hours being fully present and engaged with your children wherever possible - they don't need to know what you get up to while they're sleeping! 

Don't feel guilty

And don't be a martyr. In twenty years' time, your boss won't remember the emails you tended to diligently during your holiday, but your kids will remember the memories you made. 

A week is really not that long. Don't waste it.

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