Today is officially the last day of my holiday in Brazil with the whole family. We spent four weeks between mine and my wife’s home city, visited family and friend, visited some places that I haven’t before even living in the state most of my life and showed the kids some of our favorite spots.
But I also wrote a blog post, submitted five talks to Ignite, participated in to MVP calls, had a couple of meetings with people at work, replied to my work email to prevent projects go the wrong way.
So, at the end of the trip, I started thinking… With so much focus on quality time and really unplugging during your holiday, this days, should I have done that? Did I really enjoyed this trip as much as I should have?
The answer is yes. I would probably be more stressed if I didn’t do those things. The blog post was bubbling in my head, almost writing itself, the content submission were a unique opportunity that I would kick myself in the back if I didn’t at least tried, and I know that my team would only reach out to me if they really needed. And I still had lots of fun, because I put “tools” in place before and during the holidays to help me cop with my “unplugness”. If you are like me you might also struggle with this juggling act, those tips might help. In the end, it is all in the balance.
How I managed my emails
Before I left, I set some email rules that helped me to cope with the biggest buzzkill for someone like me on a holiday – seeing your mailbox grow bigger and bigger. One is in place for a while, the other was an actual agreement with my team:
The CC Folder
This is an awesome tip that I learned from Scott Hanselman a while ago. Have a separate CC folder under your inbox and make sure that messages where you are added to the CC field instead of the to field is sent to that folder. Do not add that folder to your favorites! 😆
Scott talks about this in his blog post and give you the steps on how to set that up, so check it out. I can’t recommend this more, holiday or not.
On top of the CC folder hack, also enable focused inbox, if you haven’t yet. It help you to only check the emails that really matter. If you don’t have that enable yet – I think Outlook is enabling it by default now, but I am not sure, here is how you can do it.
Turn on Out of Office
It feels like a safety blanket – people know that you will not be replying to emails or reading frequently so you don’t feel that guilty about it.
Now a shameless plug – you know I created a Flow Button that can help you to setup out of office, teams and other channels all at once? Check it here.
Rules of engagement on email
This is the agreement I had with clients and my own team which helped me to set the ground rules to when I would reply to emails.
I told all the clients I had an active project on and my own team that I would not reply to client emails. But I advised my own team that if they thought that they need my help to solve a problem or if there was a decision that they needed my input to have, they should send me an email themselves with the question and I would answer.
Doing that, I guaranteed that the clients would not be expecting me to answer emails while I was out, empowered my team to make their own decisions but gave them the tools to engage with me where needed.
How I managed my smart phone
My phone can be another source of stress… lots of red dots in apps? I can’t live with that! I need to see what it is, almost like a cat that can’t resist the red do of a laser, you know. So what helped me to tame my phone lure was to turn off the message count and notifications for all apps – Outlook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook… you name it. That didn’t stopped me from checking them multiple times, but I end up doing this only when I was bored – waiting in a line to buy tickets, waiting for a meal while everyone else was playing, etc. It is such a small thing but I helped me.
How I managed my priorities
The other thing I did to help me conciliate my nerd side – that saw a lot of free time to tinker with things, write and do work-that-is-not-work stuff – with the real reason why I had so much time – being in holiday with my family – was to choose the times when I allowed myself to
work play with my toys.
I found that after a day at the beach, or after a whole day at a barbecue with friends, the whole family would crash. Sleep like log.
So after everyone was sleeping, I I didn’t crash as well, then it was time to open the computer and check the emails, write a little bit, etc. It was also when the house was the quietest. Some other time, waking up early would give me the chance to have some quality time with my parents – they wake up with the chicken as we say in Brazil – have a breakfast cooked by mum and then use the computer a bit until everyone else woke up.
Same for any meetings. I’ve used the timezone difference, which is huge to my advantage and only scheduled meetings after everyone went to sleep. Although that meant some late nights, it was not like I had to wake up to go to work next day, right? 😉
In summary – I knew for a while know that I can’t fully unplug – but I learned during the holidays to create rules for myself that helped me enjoy the holiday fully. Knowing that I allowed myself time to check how things were going at the office and to work on my community contributions without sacrificing the quality time with family and friends, helped me to enjoy the holiday fully and feel quite energized to come back to work next week. Now I just need to survive my road back home.