It’s August – let’s go on holiday! We all need them, but we’re not all great at being on them. If you’re the ‘I’ve just got to check in with the office’ type (and that can be most of us, some of the time) here’s our guide to breaking the work habit for those precious weeks with family and friends.
Holidays – I’d put that word as a favourite for young, old, and everyone in between. When I was 10, holidays meant no school, a ton of new books, and a lay-in after staying up later than usual. At the age of 22, this has barely changed – except no school is substituted with no work. And while school holidays were the perfect excuse to forget all my maths worries and spend a good chunk of time away from all responsibilities, as an adult separating leisure time from work time has proven a bit difficult. Countless times I, and for sure you too, have slipped while on holiday and opened my email inbox or, even worse, Slack – ‘just to check my messages REAL quick’.
"Just checking my messages, real quick..."
Work doing what you love and you will never work a day in your life… and quite possibly will have a hard time vacationing too. In the spirit of the summer holidays, here is a little guide on how to boss your holiday, and not be bossed by your email inbox.
5 easy things to try while you’re away
Form new habits. It’s not as exhausting as it sounds! Holidays can be a good time to form new habits (they usually take at least 10 days to settle) and to work on improving yourself. Always wanted to meditate? Just 10 minutes a day can do the trick and your holiday mood will definitely enhance your ‘om’.
Manage your expectations. You can’t do EVERYTHING on your holiday, so make sure you set achievable vacation goals. Try to keep it active but not frantic. A fine balance between planning and executing your plan will help you feel both more relaxed and more accomplished. According to studies, we experience the most happiness when planning our holidays rather than during the actual vacation. Anticipation of fun times can boost happiness.
Allow yourself adjustment days. Days before you leave in which you start your relaxation process and slowly decrease your workload, and a day to prepare for the dreaded day back to work. You could spend that day decorating your house with new souvenirs, going through your vacation photos, or doing the laundry and grocery shopping.
Short and sweet. Another study found that health and wellness benefits of a vacation usually peak at about eight days. Thinking of taking that bank holiday week off? Do it! Additionally, some say that smaller pleasures experienced frequently can contribute more to your well-being than long but infrequent ones. Take that Friday and Monday off and go enjoy the sun in Brighton.
Save the best till last. Finally, the human brain is programmed in such a way that it gives the most consideration to things that happened last in a series – the ‘recency’ effect. That means that the last day of your vacation will be most memorable to you. Indulge yourself at the end, rather than the beginning.
Help for the perennially anxious
These tips will certainly help you ace your holiday. But what about that nagging feeling that your company is burning down while you are away? Maybe they need you to cover a crisis? Or they can’t access a file? These questions can make even the most relaxed holidayer bite their nails with anxiety. However, cognitive behavioural therapy may have the answer for you: it advises that if a situation induces you with anxiety, exposing yourself to that same situation can help you manage anxiety (also check out Strength in number: group therapy and phobias). So if you are scared you might miss an important email while on holiday, spend a night in the week before your holiday not checking your email. You will see that the email will be waiting for you in the morning and nothing has burnt down. Next, try to go a day of the weekend without looking at your inbox – and Monday will be just the same. Unless you are a freelancer, working is often a team game – and your team has got your back while you are tanning it!
Understand how habits work
Facing your anxieties can certainly help you manage them, but you need to create resilient habits to maintain that work-life balance. While there are many guides on how to build these habits and how long it takes for them to set in, it is important to understand that the way we formulate that habit in our heads is also vital. Making the habit negative where a lack of action is needed to form it – ‘I am NOT going to check my emails’, – often fails because our habit system learns by performing an action, not taking it away. That new habit can take the shape of a walk in the evening/after work without your phone on you or it can focus on reading/meditating/cooking/relaxing in a dedicated space where work is not allowed – it could be an armchair, a carpet, or even your kitchen counter but it is solely for you and your enjoyment rather than work. It is helpful to hide your email app when you are on your off days – put it in a folder you rarely use and the magic will happen. We often open our email app without thinking, it’s an auto-pilot activity – but going an extra step to open it, will make you think twice before doing it and remind you that you don’t need to do that in your free time.
Remember, you’ve earned it!
You deserve a holiday that feels like the ones you had when you were a child. And even if it takes a bit of effort, it is possible – possible to feel refreshed, to detach from work while holidaying, and to allow yourself a recharge so that you have a fabulous Monday back. Be a real leader and boss that holiday!