For many parents, the beloved “March Break” is anything but a vacation. Many of us with school-aged children work to balance family time, along with our work obligations. Even if we’ve taken so-called vacation days, we keep getting sucked back into work via email. To attempt to put an end to this limbo, we turned to Ann Gomez, President of Clear Concept Inc. productivity expert, author and super mom of four. In her newly launched book, The Email Warrior, Ann outlines simple, productivity tips with the added benefit of improving your vacation time, starting with your inbox.
Ann Gomez answers some of your most dire questions just in time for the March Break.
The best solution is to not check email. And since email is oh-so-tempting, you can even remove the email icon from your phone while you’re on vacation. If you truly want/need to look at your work email, force yourself to log in (which will help to cut down on the temptation to peek).
Some people prefer to keep up with email on vacation, so they don’t return to a flood of messages in their inbox. If this sounds like a more reasonable solution for you, consider keeping your replies in your draft box and sending once you return to the office. Once you start sending responses on vacation, you set the expectation that you are available. The last thing you need is to start volleying back and forth with your colleagues. This can wait until you return.
If you absolutely must monitor email during vacation, give yourself a window of time to do so and keep it in check. For example, you may give yourself permission to only log at before 8:00 a.m. when the rest of the family is still fairly groggy. But before you spend too much time on email over vacation, consider whether it is truly necessary. Often, checking email is simply a habit.
I definitely encourage you to set up an “out-of-office” when on vacation. While this isn’t necessary if you are away for a few hours, this does help to manage expectations when you’re away. Provide people with an alternative contact if something urgent comes up.
Before your vacation, tell your colleagues you’ll be away. Ask them, where possible, to save emails until you return and let them know who to contact in your absence. When you’re back in office, book one-on-one meetings with anyone who has sent you a surplus of messages, so you can work through them together.
The best way to ease back into work is to block the time before you leave for catch-up and ramp-up. Avoid booking back-to-back meetings on your first day back. Similar to jet lag, expect it will take one hour to get through one day’s worth of emails. And start with the most current emails to make sure you are jumping on the most recent conversation threads. You’ll find that most issues will have resolved themselves by the time you return. If you have the option, work from home that first day to focus on answering emails and doing other catch-up without any added interruptions.
If you wait for the perfect time, you might never take a vacation! Book your next vacation while on this vacation and you will find a way to make it work.