3 min read

6 steps I use to take every vacation totally disconnected from work

The exact steps I've taken to take every vacation totally disconnected from work
6 steps I use to take every vacation totally disconnected from work
Photo by Hugh Whyte / Unsplash

Remember vacations? Yes, it’s been a while. But even pre-pandemic, if you’re being honest with yourself, you may have been away physically but mentally: Not so much.

Even if you are strong and don’t respond to email while you’re taking time off, there’s a strong chance you check in on email or Slack at least a few times.

Just read most every out of office message closely for clues. It reads something like this: Thanks for your email. I’m out of office and will be checking email infrequently. ← notice this last word. “Infrequently.” UGGG.

So why are we constantly checking when we’re not working? It’s rarely mandated. Typically, it’s an implicit expectation we place on ourselves.

  • What if my manager needs something?
  • How can I be a great teammate if I’m not around?
  • I won’t be successful if I’m not there to keep things moving.
  • I’ll fall behind.
  • If I’m not responsive people will think less of me.

The folks behind our favorite tools understand this stress and play into it. Take a look. Slack gives you the option to have a notification push to your phone and/or email if you’re not on desktop. NOPE. NOPE. NOPE.

Since our tools won’t give us the ability to hide, we need to make a conscious decision to be unreachable.

For the last three years, when I take time off, I’m gone.

Here is how I’ve taken time 100% off from work.

  1. Mark off the time I’m taking in a public place like a team calendar
  2. Remind people I’ll be gone and ensure projects are buttoned up and any loose items have a clear path forward while I’m out.
  3. Remove email and Slack from my phone. I actually have been going without it full-time for months to keep my nights free and clear.
  4. Set an out of office message not like the example above. But one that clearly states expectations: I’m out, won’t be checking, when I’ll return, and where to go with urgent needs that can’t wait until I’m back.
  5. Actually do what I say and stay unreachable. This is by far the most important step.
  6. I always tell my manager I won’t be checking in and to text me with anything urgent. I leave it to their discretion but have never received an urgent text in three years. People have a funny way of figuring things out.

Doing this allows me to feel restored when I take time off. And it signals to people around me that it’s normal and expected to be unreachable when taking time off.

If you’re firm and clear about your boundaries, people respect them. And you’ll have an unfair advantage: Energy for the long journey, not just tomorrow.  

Email-filled vacation ≠ vacation

Be unreachable. It’s okay.

Ready to downsize your relationship with work and quit burnout?

Hi, I'm Grant Gurewitz. I'm on a mission to end burnout at work. I've been in tech for 10 years (ex-Zillow, current: Qualtrics) who suffered deep burnout and came back from it with no help of the hacky advice out there.

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