It’s TOUGH to Get Away From it All…

I’ve just returned from an 8 day vacation (I say that, because something about being gone even one day over 1 week makes things more ‘serious’!) and am reflecting on how much of a vacation I really got…

It’s always been very difficult for me to 1) prepare for being away from my business and 2) really BE away from my business when I’m gone!  And my vacation-mates get annoyed at my need to keep connected via email and the ‘quick little thing’ I have to do to respond to a client’s urgent plea, etc. etc.  All of this creates a lot of stress…and that is the exact opposite of why I GO on vacations!

Even though I tie up all of my projects with tidy bows, delegate meeting facilitation while I’m gone (if I can’t manage to get the meetings rescheduled), deliver on all client commitments before I go, and schedule ‘catch up’ meetings the minute I’m back, @*!% inevitably happens and there are things to attend to/respond to while I’m gone.

And realistically, I can’t IMAGINE totally checking out from email because it would take me 2 full days to sift through it all once I return since I get over 100 emails/day (that’s not including the junk that gets filtered out automatically).

So am I the only one with this problem?  Is it even POSSIBLE to entirely check out in the line of work we are in?  Has anyone created the perfect support system/process to allow you to really check out?  Is there a ‘safe zone’ (like 3 days away) that makes it easier?

Even though the process is difficult (the preparation, the juggling and the catching up), I am FIRMLY committed to vacations…the BEST type of vacation is the one that I book a year out and can dream about all year long during tough workdays…it’s so nice to have something to look forward to!  And I really do enjoy travelling and exploring new places…so I will continue to be faced with this dilemma.

I’d love to hear from those of you who have mastered the process of getting away–and of course would love to hear from kindred spirits who find themselves in the same push me/pull you situation I am in each time I get away.

About Jen Berkley Jackson

Jen Berkley Jackson, founder and owner of The Insight Advantage, has extensive experience in using various methods (surveys, focus groups, one-on-one interviews) to integrate the voice of the customer into all functions, helping organizations increase market share, revamp product lines/services, and ultimately increase customer loyalty and retention.


  1. I agree with you, it’s really difficult to disconnect when you’re away. But believe it or not, I find less time to check up on work when we go on family vacations. For some reason, I get really busy ‘being on vacation’ when we’re all together…go figure.

  2. WARNING: Long Response

    For various reasons, I take several trips a year and struggle with this very issue every time. For all but two or so of those trips, I do check email and am prepared to do some form of work, much to the consternation of the family I visit on some of those trips. I tell them that I take a lot of personal trips throughout the year and that I simply can’t take all that time off completely.

    So for one family (husband, daughter, me) vacation each year, and one vacation with my husband, I try to disconnect completely. Sometimes it’s forced, because there is no Internet; sometimes I force myself by not bringing my computer. Either way, I face the same issues you do upon return.

    The emails alone are horrifying. When I totally disconnect, I’m forced to put on the automatic vacation response, which ups my spam quotient tenfold. While I have a filter, I’m still forced to scroll through all of them, looking for the one or two that shouldn’t be in there. Then, there are the 100 or so good emails per day that I must go over. There’s also all the work that didn’t get done and the risk of not replying promptly to a new potential client who contacted me while I was gone. Sigh! I can feel my blood pressure rising just thinking about returning from a vacation!

    So what do I do? Well, I’ve not done anything yet, but deal with it. 😉 However, here are the things I’m considering in 2009, as I definitely need to be able to disconnect without increasing my stress. It defeats the purpose.

    • A virtual assistant (VA): a couple of the WIC board members use VAs and swear by them. I think this is a viable option for managing the mounds of emails that come through my in-box while I’m gone. Even if she (or he) can’t “do the work” associated with the emails, she can (to name a few):

    – Comb through the spam for the couple of good emails and delete the rest
    – Respond, at the very least, to any inquiries, explaining that I’m currently out of town and will respond on X date when I return
    – Set up meetings (or con calls) for me to attend upon my return
    – Handle some of the requests that she’s skilled to handle

    • A vacation partnership: what’s a vacation partnership? An arrangement with another consultant (or two, whatever makes sense for your business) that each of you will stand in for each other during vacations. So, if there’s something that can’t wait until you return, and your VA can’t handle it, your vacation partner will step in—or at least get it going. I’ve not fully fleshed out this idea, but it holds some appeal to me (I do love virtual teams, after all). For me, I’d need probably two vacation partners—one for the Web and one for marcom writing.

    I look forward to hearing about everyone else’s ideas! Thanks for starting the conversation Jen!

    Avery 🙂

  3. I usually end up checking my email when I’m on vacation – though I find if the vacation is long enough, I get to a point where I stop doing that for 4 days or so.

    One thing I do to try to make sure I don’t have to worry too much is to set voice mail and email responders with the “i’m on vacation” message. I also arrange with another consultant for vacation backup – and leave their contact info in case of emergency.

  4. Well…most of us just had some downtime over the holidays…how did YOU do at getting away and giving yourself some downtime?

    I actually did really well…of course it’s much easier when all of your clients are hibernating also…

    But I found that upon return to ‘real life’ today, I felt ‘off’ and very fuzzy on status of several projects that were dangling…I mentioned that to someone and she had a great idea. Before you leave for your away time, jot down the current status and immediate next steps on each of your projects so when you return, you can pick things right up from where you left off.

    I love this idea and will use it next time! (what a switch from the problem I had LAST time of not getting far enough away…)

    Happy trails–


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