4 Tips to unplug and unwind this holiday season

  1. Get on top of your to-do’s

  2. Set Boundaries with the office 

  3. Get clear

  4. Set expectations  

When my wife told me there are only 5 more Sundays until Santa comes.. I was like WTF where has this year gone…. and for some of us Holidays start as soon as School finishes.

The one thing our wife's, husbands or partners dread when we go on holidays is how attached we are to work as it is just one phone call, email or text away… Then you get "the look” (we all know the look) from your partner when your phone beeps… you look at the email or text or listen to the voice mail and yep.. it is work….

We are connected to work 24/7 even while on holidays, we all do it, go for a swim and come back to the hotel room and check the phone for emails. Sit at the buffet breakfast connected to the hotels wifi checking emails, text your work colleagues and ask how the office is while you are away.. standing in line at a theme park with the kids and checking emails.. we all do it and see people on holidays do it..then your kids or your partner ask you something, and you’re not listening, your kids then grab your pants and you yell at them to stop…..or your partner says to get off your phone and you snap at them causing an argument… we have all been there…. 

Holidays are a time when we are meant to relax, take our minds off work and de-stress, re-boot and most of all reconnect with our family and friends.

We all have excuses that we make when we tend to “urgent emails, phone calls and text messages from work”…. “Oh, I have to read this urgent email, or respond to this urgent matter etc” while some of these may legitimately be urgent. I get it though, I was that guy, I was compelled to be connected, I have left a holiday early to come back to work, I have postponed holidays to work and while your position and pay certainly come with expectations.... can we find a balance?

Is staying connected to work an addiction, or a habit? Or is it simply that you don't want to get back to the office and be overwhelmed by more work you could have handled while on holidays?

Does work get in the way of you enjoying your holidays, but more importantly, you and your family enjoying each others company while on holidays?

So can we be connected to work and connected to our holiday at the same time? Yes I think so, here are 4 tips to help you unplug and unwind on holidays:

1. Get on top of your to-do's

So you want a holiday you can relax and enjoy? You need to plan ahead and start making provisions for while you are away to set your holiday up for success!

We get so distracted by the goings on of life that our attention and focus shifts from one task to another at the drop of a hat… we get caught up with daily bulls*t that our to-do list seems never ending.. but what if you could turn your to-do’s into DONES!!

I love Tony Robbins Rapid Planning method or RPM.. it was and is a game changer for a guy who had pages of to-do’s, I would cross them off as I finally finished them, some went for weeks making the daily to-do list for 4 weeks straight.. the ones I didn’t get to, would go onto to the next days page etc etc.. 

Look at your to-do list and ask yourself these 3 questions:

  1. What is the outcome I am after (for doing the to-do) the more precise, the stronger it is.. for example there is a difference between "I want to get on top of my to-do’s today" and… "There are 12 to-do’ on my list, I am going to do 3 a day for the next 4 days."
  2. What are my reasons (for doing the to-do) - use some cool language (“trigger words”) to frame this, or words that motivate you…for example we all have a client we don’t want to call.. “I have to call client X, he is such a pain the ass, I’ll do it tomorrow”..Instead….think of the reason why you have to call him/her? i.e. I know he is a lucrative client that will buy a product or service from me and it will help me make budget or earn a good commission etc! Hopefully this will make you call and get it off your to-do list!
  3. What do I need to do to reach the outcome and achieve the result.. What you need to do here is to create a plan on how you will reach the outcome. For example, I need to write the letter of advice before I go on holidays. Plan would be: I have done or someone in the office has had a file similar and I/they have already written an advice that I can use as a precedent. I will use this and amend it and give it to my PA to draft for me and I will finalise it on the way home etc.. 

2. Set boundaries..

Make sure you have set clear boundaries with your office on how and when they contact you while you’re away. The last thing you or your family want is for your office to be calling you while you are holidays to ask questions. Why not try the following:

(a) To only call you if it is super urgent, for example if a deal is going to fall over or a client is going to walk away etc. (Or send a text saying "urgent -please call in relation to client x")

(b)  Have your office send you a summary email at the end of the day, or week (which is better) letting you know how the day or week was (as we do like to know it is handled while we are away).

(c) If you don’t mind staff or clients knowing you are away, set your auto reply up saying "you are away and you will respond on your return, if it is urgent please contact X who will be handling your matter while I am away".. have fun with this too.. make it funny.. Hi, my boss has finally allowed me to take holidays and my partner has confiscated my phone, so I won’t be able to contact you while I am away, but if the matter is urgent please contact x..

Setting the tone at your office for your holiday is crucial for your sanity let alone your family’s!!

3. Get Clear..

Before you leave to go on your much deserved Holiday, send a summary email to your PA, Partner, Junior or colleague who will be handling your work while you are away, with CLEAR instructions of where the file, matter or client is up to, so if the office gets a question or letter while you are away they can deal with it easily. 

Remember your particular file, client, matter or deal may not be the first of its kind to ever happen, your firm or business would have dealt with something very similar at some stage in the past, so they should be able to handle it, if given clear instructions. 

TIP: Map out particular scenarios for them if A happens do B, if B doesn’t work try C etc. Even go as far as drafting relevant correspondence and have them ready to send.

4. Set expectations 

If you just can’t unplug, a good way to set expectations is to let your clients and staff know that you will be working remotely or answering emails between 7-8am most mornings or 8-9pm evenings (change time differences for where you are holidaying) and that is it. If they want to contact you then you will only answer emails or take phone calls at this time. If it is urgent, ask them to send a text and you will let them know when they can call you back.

It is also just as important to let your partner and kids know before your trip that this is the only time you will be on your phone and checking and answering emails while on holidays.  They will appreciate it, and you won’t get into arguments while you are away as you have been honest and set those expectations. 

While it will be hard to not check emails while sipping cocktails by the pool - these steps will hopefully make your holiday a more relaxing one, where you have an opportunity to spend some quality time with family and friends. 

Have fun!!

Hugh Simson