As you know, we’re both away on our holidays so we prepared this blog post before we left. Because this year, we’re doing things a little differently. For the first time, inspired by Get The Gloss‘ recent feature, we’ve actually switched off – bye bye Instagram and emails by the pool. And we can report, that we feel so much calmer for it. In fact, we anticipate a seriously effective September as a result.

If you’re feeling like a real break is what you need, read on for the switch off plan we’re following this Summer…

 

OUR TOP TIPS FOR FREELANCERS AND SMALL BIZ OWNERS…

If you’re a freelancer, it can be difficult to balance having a break without risking losing work if offers come in while you’re away. We know all too personally the complex struggle that is being self-employed, needing a holiday and risking losing work if you completely switch off. What we say is choose an approach that suits you, and feels right for that specific holiday break, and then stick to it, because often it’s us not being strict with ourselves that leads to feelings of stress and confusion when we’re officially OOO. So either…

Officially switch off

Decide that a break is more important than the work that might come in and take a vow to go completely off grid. If this is you, then be brave and actually remove your mail app from your phone too. Yup, we know this might sound drastic, but trust us (we’ve done it!) if it’s not there, even just for a few days, you’ll feeling instantly disconnected from your work life, plus it’ll make your freelance abstinence easier because you can’t just click across for a quick check. If a complete email remove feels too dramatic, start leaving your phone in a different room for the bulk of the day. Make sure you have a clear and informative OOO message in place so that others know you are unavailable too.

Be okay with staying in touch

Not all of us actually want a complete severance from our work, and that is ok. Often, when we’re aboard in a new environment, it can feel inspiring in a whole new way – so it’s often useful to capture these feelings and channel them into your freelance life. If you want to stay connected, we’d advice that you do so in very regimented and scheduled manner. So, try choosing a specific time each day (for example first thing in the morning or before dinner) that you commit to work. This way, you know you won’t miss anything on the holiday front, your OOO will inform others that you’ll be slightly delayed in your responses and you’ll be able to have a break for the majority of your holiday. Tip: only respond to urgent emails, everything else can wait till after your break!

Offer your phone number

Email is pathologically addictive, so if you want a decent break, offer your phone number for urgent enquires in your OOO response, and then refrain from opening your inbox. This option will allow you the security of knowing that you aren’t missing out on work, but gives your mind and scrolling thumb a well-earned break.

 

OUR TOP TIPS FOR EMPLOYEES…

If you’re not a freelancer and you still need to work while you’re away, but don’t want to compromise your boundaries and quality time with your friends and family, again, there are several ways to approach this. We all have difference work preferences, so choose the one that chimes with you. Be honest with yourself from the outset about your ability to shutdown or engage, and then stick to what you’ve decided. Consistency is key! So either…

Schedule yourself to relaxation

As we suggested above, give yourself a specific email schedule and then don’t open your inbox in non-designated times. Again, we’d advise that you go as far as to remove email/work apps from your phone, so that you can only log in consciously from your laptop or tablet. Unconscious phone checking is difficult to avoid; to test this theory, try leaving your phone on your desk for an hour and not checking it. It’s a lot more difficult than it sounds. Apps, including email, are designed to be addictive so we often check them as a subconscious response each time we check our phones. And once you’ve seen an important email, it will be even more difficult not to reply or at least worry. Moral of the story: make it more difficult to check your emails, and then you’re more likely to stick to your schedule.

Lean on your colleagues

There’s always so much to do when you’re about to leave for holiday, but we say, plan properly and you’ll give yourself the best possible chance of a break. Do a full set of handover notes for the rest of your team, and consider hosting a short pre-holiday meeting for any colleagues that you work especially closely with. This way, you’ll put yourself in the best stead for a proper break: communication is key. And then, leave a phone number with your colleagues (and on an OOO email as above) but explain that it is only for urgent queries. People have a much higher threshold for calling than emailing, so you’ll reduce your chances of hearing from work, if you offer the emergency phone call option rather than email.

Find cover

If there is no natural delegation line at work, or a colleague to refer emails to, then approach someone to be your cover. This person can field work while you’re away and you can reciprocate when it’s their turn. Skill sharing, or holiday cover sharing, is a great way to give you security and some decompression time too.

For anything that does come through, use a scale of urgency and importance to determine whether you actually need to work. Literally ask yourself, “Is this urgent?” or “Is this really important?” And then quickly work through the consequences. If you make an informed decision that yes, you need to wade in, then carve out a specific time and do it on your terms. Otherwise, if you’ve answered no to your questions, leave it for your return. Often work can seem essential in the moment (or under duress from a pushy client or boss!) but on reflection it can wait or be delegated. Give yourself a higher than normal threshold for working on holiday: you need your break, we are, humans not robots.

 

WHAT YOUR OUT OF OFFICE SHOULD SAY…

Some companies encourage you not to put on OOO, but we would insist that you do. It’s important that you don’t feel obligated or stressed by not being on available, so a polite OOO and voicemail explaining the dates you’re away, that you won’t be regularly checking email and that you’ll respond on return is a must. Ditto the contact details of a colleague who can deal with any queries while you’re off. Depending on your role, you might want to include your phone number for emergencies. As we’ve already said, communication really is key when you’re away. Mainly for your own peace of mind, but also to help your colleagues know the lay of the land so that they can hopefully wade in if anything needs immediate attention.

 

WAYS YOU CAN PREPARE BEFORE AND AFTER GOING AWAY…

To get you into a guilt-free holiday mindset, do some pre-travel preparation. Honestly, there’s nothing like flying out of the office in a hurry without any forward thinking, to give you a holiday marred with stress and fear. To put yourself in the best position possible for some R and R, be fastidious in how you exit: complete anything pressing, provide a clear set of handover notes, and have a proper chat with the team before you fly off.

Next, be clear with work as to how you plan to manage your time away. Remind your bosses that you’re off, and tell any key clients too, and don’t forget to reiterate how and crucially, when, they should contact you if something urgent arises. Remember, there was a time pre-email, and shock horror, before mobile phones, when a holiday meant just that: work can, in the main survive without you for a week or so. By doing all of this, you will make peace in your own mind that it’s ok to be offline for a while. Often we’re our own worst enemies when it comes to expectations, so be kind to yourself and enjoy those sunset margaritas.

Until next week,

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