A Workaholic’s Guide to Disconnecting

November 25, 2014

8:00 am

As we prepare for a few days off to enjoy family and some much needed down-time, one of the biggest challenges that entrepreneurs face when dealing with unwinding has nothing to do with technology: it’s letting go of work.  This is a common issue, especially if you are working too many hours a week for most of the weeks in the year. That’s because we are afraid to disconnect. About 40 percent of American workers don’t plan on using all of our paid time off this year, and that includes working from home during national holidays.

How can you get out of the “at-work” mentality when you are wired to hear a ping from your phone and run to the phone?

This holiday, I challenge you to try to really disconnect, which doesn’t mean just taking time off but taking your mind off of work. We hope that our guide below will facilitate this process of disconnecting that requires a bit of planning and lots of self-discipline.

Make Plans Before You Go

It’s very difficult when you are online or in possession of devices all the time.  Whether you’re planning to disconnect from work completely, or simply to keep your work time minimized, you need a clear plan for how you’re going to use your devices. Figure out what’s the least amount of work connectivity that you can get away with. For example, can you ignore work emails for a day without being fired? Once you figure out your limitations (both from your bosses and from your own internal pressure), you can plan how you will spend this disconnected time. Taking walks and eating so much turkey that you cannot move are just some ideas. Remember, you’re training your brain not to work for a few hours.

Set Boundaries

Set your boundaries for your days off and make sure to communicate them to your team. The only way to have work-life balance is by communicating your intentions with both your family and colleagues. “If you let people work you to death, they will,” says Traci Bild, founder of Bild & Company, a national health care consulting firm. If this is time for your family, then make sure that you make it so.

Be Consistent 

Make sure to be consistent when it comes to connecting for work during time off. That means that if you respond to non-urgent messages, you are sending the message that you are available at any time. Consistency sends a message that you are taking your time off seriously.  This is especially true if you’re a CEO, because you lead by example. If you are not consistently unavailable during time off, your employees will think that they need to be available also. You made a plan, so stick to it.

Make Sure to Set up Your Out-of-Office Reply.

We all fear drowning in our email boxes after taking a few days off. But if you are smart about the auto-responder message on your work account,  you can make sure it doesn’t happen. Make sure to write a message that lets your correspondents know that you may not review all the messages you receive while out, and that they should email you again after X date if they need a reply. As a courtesy, provide an alternate way of addressing their issue more quickly, such as contacting a colleague.

And here is one final thought: remember that life is about moments with your loved ones, and that is how people will remember you. So it’s okay to disconnect, even if it’s just for a few days.


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Camila has been heavily active in South Florida’s tech startup community, where she is a co-host of a local radio show called pFunkcast. Camila previously worked at Greenpeace International and the Organization of the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in various communication roles. A proud Brazilian who spent most of he life in Peru, she is passionate about traveling and documentaries.

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