A vacation is meant to be a time to relax, recharge and refresh. It should be a time to unplug, disconnect from the Internet and its inevitable connection to work. Vacations are necessary for physical and mental health, providing renewed energy and perspective upon returning to work. Yet we often do not allow ourselves the “luxury” of a real vacation.
We have many reasons justifying our need to work during vacation:
• We are the main adviser and need to be available to employees and clients.
• We will have too much work waiting for us when we return if we don't work during vacation.
• If we don't stay in touch, we will worry too much.
• And – you can fill in the blanks.
So why am I writing this article while on a cruise? What are my reasons for working during vacation? Well, beside the ones listed above, I believe that technology allows me to take the many vacations I do. Maybe I'm fooling myself, but if I couldn't stay connected and keep up with some of my work, I would not be able to go on long or frequent vacations.
My approach to this dilemma is twofold:
1. Do a limited amount of work efficiently.
2. Focus on vacation the rest of the time.
The key words are “limited” and “efficiently.” Before leaving on a trip, I plan out what I want to accomplish that will not eclipse my vacation enjoyment. I typically allocate an hour a day to work; this can be done daily or in several chunks of time, leaving some days totally free. I allow myself a few times a day to check e-mails and respond to anything pressing. Efficiency is accomplished through technology. It provides the ability to work effectively while away from the office while ensuring that I don't work when I shouldn't.
My vacation technology tools include my global phone, my iPad/Surface Pro and Wi-Fi. If I'm in the United States, all of this is easy. Verizon covers me for everything and there is no additional cost during a trip. Out of the country or on a cruise ship, I need to be more careful and creative. For phone calls, I can add the “international” plan, which brings phone charges down to only $1 to $2 per minute. For me, I like to limit that to emergency incoming calls only. Better options are Skype or Viber, assuming Wi-Fi is free (or cheap). And it's also possible to use an unlocked phone with a locally purchased SIM card. Typically, this makes incoming calls free and outgoing calls pennies per minute. When Wi-Fi isn't free or cheap, I use my phone to connect while on shore. Otherwise, I stingily use the ship's outrageously expensive Wi-Fi, limiting my online time to downloading and sending e-mails.
The benefit to vacation technology is that it's easy to turn off when I shouldn't be working. I have my work e-mails forwarded to a key employee, who will e-mail me (on a personal e-mail) if there is something I need to see. I turn off e-mail notifications on my phone. And since I don't have my computer in front of me, I am not tempted to dive into work while sitting at the pool.
You see, I like to take a lot of vacations. Technology allows me to do that – by letting me work a little and keeping me from working too much. It's what keeps me sane and motivated.
Sheryl Rowling is chief executive of Total Rebalance Expert and principal at Rowling & Associates LLP. She considers herself a non-techie user of technology.