How to Work on Vacation (Don’t Go Crazy)

A recent survey found that 60% of U.S. employees work while on vacation. While we generally recommend going completely offline, here’s how to stay productive (and relaxed) when you just can’t get yourself completely off the hook.

Blast From The Past is a weekly feature on Lifehacker in which we bring old but still relevant posts to life for your reading and hacking enjoyment. Summer is approaching us, and we remind you to take a vacation, even if you have to do a little work during it.

Last week I went on vacation and – for the first time – worked while I was away. My brother and sister worked even harder. While it did take our time to relax, I found that being able to check in made relaxation easier because I knew everything was going well in the office. Here’s what I’ve learned from my own experience.

If you don’t have to work, don’t

Okay, I know this post is about how to work on vacation, but I find it necessary to emphasize this first: if you don’t need to work, try to disconnect from the network as much as possible. That’s what vacation is for. Signing up can help relieve your stress, but if you’re unlucky, it can make you even more stressful and force you to spend all day online dealing with some kind of crisis. If you can, I recommend going on vacation and ignoring your laptop completely. It might sound a little jittery at first, but it’s also the best way to recharge.

However, we know that many of you are going to work on vacation anyway – either because you need it or because you just can’t stop it. Maybe it’s just one time (as it was for me), or maybe it’s a common practice for all your vacations. Either way, you have to set a few rules to stay sane.

Set aside a specific opening time

Before leaving the office, pick a small block (or two) of time each day that you will use to catch up on work. Let your coworkers know that this is the only time you will be answering emails, calls, and other work needs (unless they are a real emergency). For example, I checked my email around 5:00 pm every day, during downtime, when everyone is showering, getting ready for dinner, and so on. So it didn’t take away precious family time from me. If you have children, schedule times when they are playing, sleeping, or away from you. Resist the temptation to extend your working hours beyond the quarter you set.

Apart from this working time period, I recommend leaving your laptop in your bag for the rest of the day. Make it your “work area” and completely shut down during off hours. Turn off notifications on your phone, set up direct voicemail calls, and let everyone know they can text you if they need you right away (but only in emergencies). If you’re using a service like Google Voice , you can set filters to only send work calls to voicemail, which is great.

Use this time for simple, stress-free tasks.

Don’t let yourself get caught up in long, drawn-out tasks during your work hours. Remember you’re on vacation: Limit your work tasks to simple things like checking email, tracking calls, and generally keeping an eye on things. Assign your more important tasks to your colleagues (or subordinates, if you have one) and offer to do the same for them when they go on vacation. If you don’t have time to follow up on the email now, mark it and return to it on the day you return. The main idea is to keep the mailbox from overflowing and to continue working in the office (without doing all the work yourself).

Make sure your internet isn’t letting you down

The internet at your hotel, parent’s house, lake cottage, or anywhere else is never as good as your internet at home, is it? The final key to working on vacation is to make sure the internet never lets you down. Before you leave, prepare yourself for a slow or no internet connection and collect some tools to deal with it:

  • Get a modem plan for your smartphone or get a wireless hotspot. If you don’t want to pay on a monthly plan, there are several pay-as-you-go options . That way, if the internet isn’t working well or is out of order, you at least have a backup.
  • Bring an extension cord and a small Wi-Fi router such as AirPort Express. It won’t make the Internet faster, but it will certainly make it easier – especially in hotel rooms that don’t have enough outlets or Wi-Fi (but have Ethernet access).
  • Set up an additional browser for slow internet connections. With the right settings and add-ons, you can have an extra browser on your laptop designed to make the most of your slow connection, allowing you to get your work done faster.
  • Plan your work. If you know you will have slow internet, then do low bandwidth tasks at home / hotel / anywhere and group high bandwidth tasks together when you have better internet, like in a cafe ( or at the office before leaving).

A little planning can go a long way, so organize your work in a way that makes your vacation as stress-free and easy as possible – remember, the less time you spend on work, the more time you will have. Whatever you do, just stop waiting to take a vacation before you burn out .

After all, working on vacation requires many of the same rules as working in the office: Strive for a balance between work and play, draw clear dividing lines between them, and plan your time efficiently. The only difference is that you spend a lot more time playing and a lot less time at work. At least that’s how it should be!


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