Wednesday 18 October 2017

9 top tips to help you ditch screen-time for sunscreen and relax on holiday

Stock pic. Woman on beach with mobile phone.
Stock pic. Woman on beach with mobile phone.

Katie Driver

Relaxing by the poolside can be rudely interrupted by the pings of work emails. Katie Driver provides some tips on making sure you get a much-needed recharge of the batteries from your trip away

On holiday, are you more concerned about finding the nearest place with Wi-Fi than the nearest beach? Perhaps you worry more about what your colleagues are up to in your absence than what your kids are doing by the pool? If so, you’re not alone.

New research commissioned by Travelbag.co.uk shows that many of us keep our phones on throughout our holiday. And one in five of us feels we have to check work email in order to relax.

I vividly remember two hours spent in a stuffy French tourist office trying to download emails over a dubious internet connection, while my family enjoyed a gloriously sunny day outside.

Once online, I realised that among the hundreds of ‘reply-all’ messages, project updates and social media chatter, there was nothing that absolutely required my attention that day — or even that week. My main clients were also away and my team was perfectly capable. I resolved there and then to stop worrying about the office and sought out an ice-cream instead. So, if you’re among the one in five checking emails by the pool, how can you stop worrying and switch off?

Here are my top tips:

Prepare yourself

Too many times, I’ve left tasks on my ‘to do’ list for Friday only to realise, too late, that it’s my last working day for a fortnight. I now clearly mark the ‘last day before holiday’ in my calendar and do my best to keep it clear.

I can then tie-up loose ends, make sure colleagues know what to do and how to do it, and set an ‘out of office’ message. I also run a ‘before I go’ list that week to minimise the risk of realising, halfway round the tour of an ancient site, that I’ve missed a key task.

Prepare others

In the weeks leading up to your break, discuss with clients and colleagues what’s coming up. Advance planning is far easier and shows greater consideration to reaching a quality outcome than trying to deliver a 20 page report over dodgy Wi-Fi in a completely different time zone. Even if you have to bring forward key deadlines and work a few extra-long days, that’s better than trying to carve out the time once you’re away.

Prepare for your return

Part of the fear of switching off comes from worrying about how to get through hundreds of emails on return. It’s no surprise that 14pc of those polled said they wished they hadn’t gone on holiday, as they returned to massive workloads.

Why not ask colleagues to prepare a short report or have a quick debrief on your return? You’ll be back up to speed within the day and can delete most of the intervening messages.

Let people step up

If you have a team, your time off is a golden opportunity for them to show what they can really do. Leaders in forward thinking organisations know that team performance means more than personal performance. If you’ve invested in team development and shared necessary information, you shouldn’t need to worry. And if a few problems do occur, you’ll have a much clearer view of how to improve things when you get back.

Set clear boundaries

Don’t automatically agree to be in touch; a good employer should recognise that proper downtime is a necessary antidote to stress and burnout. But if you’re among the one in five required to check email or work while away, agree in advance when you can do it. You’ll have a more refreshing break if you can briefly check-in a couple of times a week, rather than every day. Even better if you can agree those same boundaries with your holiday companions and use meals out or trips as incentives to keep work time to a minimum.

Consider a separate phone

For years, I’ve had completely separate mobiles for work and home. Like many of my clients, I found it impossible to ignore work emails on holiday, so never truly switched off. Research suggests that even having your phone in view risks drawing your attention towards what might be on it. Now when I go away, the work phone gets turned on for a few hours every three or four days — so I don’t have ‘new email’ notifications nagging at my brain in the meantime.

Recognise the benefit of free time

We’re so used to filling every moment of every day , it feels like that’s the only way to be productive. So with nothing obvious to do, it’s tempting to check emails. However, free time is beneficial because it is free time — spent meandering through an old town or dozing on a lounger. Reflect on when you’ve had your best ideas and insights: chances are it wasn’t while you were looking at your phone. If you have to think about work by the pool, you could always prime your brain by jotting down a few problems to ponder. But be aware that the magic won’t work if you force yourself to come up with new inspiration.

Have fun

Take literature you really want to read and plan activities you’re keen to do. Getting lost in a good book or learning something completely different is an excellent way to take your thinking to a completely different place and switch off from your worries.

Get some perspective

If you see as little of your family on holiday as you do in an ordinary working week — or if you feel compelled to work because of an overbearing boss or wildly competitive peers — it might be time to take stock. That doesn’t mean resigning the moment you get home, but perhaps using the year ahead to plan a different role or a change of direction. So, on next year’s holiday you can worry about sunscreen instead of screen-time.

Herald

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