Tips for working during vacation

Yes, I am on “vacation.” One of those do-nothing, go-nowhere vacations which is my favorite kind given that I do live on Cape Cod, it is August, and the price is right. I’ve rarely, if ever, been able to completely go off the grid during a holiday. The classic was 1998, when my wife and I spent two weeks in France to celebrate my 40th birthday. I was at working with the managing editor and one of the top reporters to uncover the Stephen Glass hoax at the New Republic (later turned into a movie Shattered Glass). Right up to the moment I had to catch a cab to Newark for the flight we were in crazy mode trying to get the facts quadrupled checked. I continued to work by cell phone right up to take off, landed in Paris, got back online, and kabloom, the story hit the fan over the weekend, causing a front page sensation in the NYT and global press.

My wife was not amused as I stayed glued to a phone. I wanted to be in the newsroom, but there was no way I could detach myself from the story.

So vacation has always meant for me a fully charged cellphone, occasional breaks back into conference calls, and a lot of email scanning with an occasional reply if the subject warrants an immediate response. This five day break is no different. Forthcoming product announcements, long-standing conference calls, and the blog that never sleeps (not this one, Lenovo’s Design Matters) keeps me working two, maybe three hours a day. While the workplace psychologists may caution us worker bees to completely unplug, the reality is few people can afford to. So, here is how to cope and decompress at the same time.

1. Just say no. Not every mail needs a reply, not every conference call needs to be dialed into. People will understand.

2. Fight your fires, not your inbox. Scan subject lines, look for the exclamation points and red text, and make terse replies, not lengthy ones.

3. Do it all early in the morning and late in the evening. Compress the work into blocks. Don’t spread it through the day.
4. The cellphone is the leash. Laptops don’t work when there is sand in the keyboard: a cellphone in the beach bag is fine. Turn the ringer off — bring an index card with conference call in numbers, put on the Borg headset, hit mute, and listen. When you have to talk the rest of the call will have to put up with the background sounds of seagulls and jetskis. Too bad.

5. Don’t feel sorry for yourself. No one likes a whiner. You’re guaranteed to be very bored and very left alone in retirement, so don’t get resentful that work creeps into vacation — there are no hard and fast lines left in life.
6. Noble sentiments of fully disconnecting and decompressing are just sentiments.

7. And set your autoreply and voice mail messages ….

Author: David Churbuck

Cape Codder with an itch to write

0 thoughts on “Tips for working during vacation”

  1. You’re guaranteed to be very bored and very left alone in retirement…. amen brother, althougfh it is fun to be a pest, and make your friends laugh while keeping your “hand in” on a topic you really like.
    Oh, you officially a Pentel Tradio convert yet?


  2. I am a Tradio convert. How many are left in the world.
    Your retirement is my model. You sound insanely happy and busier than when you were “working.”

  3. I guess Pentel is back making the Tradio. But they’re still cheaper on eBay than they are in the stores. funny.

    If you don’t take real vacatiouns, Dave, you will do like I did, stroke out, have a heart attack, or get recurring bouts of prostate infections, depending on how your body handles stress. Long range fishing trips, or fishing the flat’s of Nicaruga while staying in Somoza’s old mansion/turned hotel, are great antidotes to stress.

    Perro asked me to ask Esme to send him a picture of her in a tight sweater. he thinks she’s hotttttttttttt!


  4. Bravo on the “just say no.” I’m learning to set limits, esp. when the meetings, calls, fires to fight, etc. fall into the “lack of planning on your part does not consititute an emergency on my part” category.

    Of course, I don’t get to put it to the test for another week or so. Last falls effort crashed and burned miserably, to the point where I decided not to even lot it as paid time off.

    I’ve already started to set the stage with the usual offenders. “I’m headed on vacation end of next week. If you’re going to need something, ask now. Otherwise, we’ll see you in a few weeks.”

    It won’t keep the wannabe alpha dogs from lifting a leg on my cornflakes, but it makes me feel better knowing I did my best to prevent it.

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