Stop working over the holidays

Turn off the computer

This December, I'm dedicating my blogs to the sometimes prickly issues associated with the holiday season at work. In my first post, you got a few ideas about workplace gift giving. In the second, I gave some suggestions about making the most of the holiday party. Finally, in this post, I'll give you some things to think about as you turn off your phone and head off for some rest over the holidays.

Turning Off

Taking a real break from work is easier said than done. Maybe the interruptions are inflicted on you because you're pretty important to your organization and they struggle to cope without you. Or maybe they are self-inflicted because you get email withdrawal as you go from 60mph to 0 in no time flat.

For whatever reason, you might be considering checking your phone throughout the day over the holidays. Here are some cautions, tips, and things to think about. 

  1. Thought: Your brain really does need a change of pace to be at its best. Information needs time to consolidate to be really useful and these rest periods give the time you need to have novel, innovative, valuable thoughts. Tip: Give yourself permission to pay attention to different things than normal. If you need a few minutes respite from family time, read something tangentially related to work. Watch a TED talk. Stimulate your brain. Brainwave ideas come from the craziest places.
  2. Caution: Multi-tasking reduces your effectiveness at work and the implications can be far more profound and negative at home. Your family and friends deserve your undivided attention and every time you get sucked back into a work issue, you lose the connection with people you care most about. Tip: if you MUST leave your phone on, put it in a different room where the incessant flashing, beeping alerts won't have you tempted to look away from your kids' puppet show.
  3. Caution: if you give in to the temptation to send email, remember every email you send creates a ba-humbug domino effect for others on your team. If you're responding to (or worse, sending) emails during the holidays, your teammates will feel obliged to as well (especially if you're the boss). Tip: If possible, save drafts of emails you write and send them when people are back at the office.
  4. Thought: A great thing about you being offline is it provides a chance for your colleagues to problem solve. Having teammates dependent on you might feel good in the short-term, but in the long run it's just a pain for everyone. Tip: Be explicit about the kinds of things you want people to solve without you (and conversely, the situations where you want/need to be involved) and then stay out of the way and let your teammates work things out.
  5. Caution: If you keep checking in for messages, you are detracting from the benefit of  time off for you (see #1) and your team (see #4). Leave a phone number where you can be reached in case of emergencies and trust that if it doesn't ring, no news is good news!
  6. Tip: Use your out of office message to be really clear about your time off boundaries. If you're not checking mail or messages, say so. If you checking once each morning at 9, say that too. If you have given your emergency contact to one person, use your out of office to say that all issues can be directed to that person and then for goodness sake, don't put your number in the out of office message.

I'm not great at turning off either.  It takes me a few days to decompress, but by the end of my vacation, I am not even sure where my phone is. I am always rewarded with magical moments with my family and a new wellspring of ideas for work.

This holiday season, gift yourself the gift of some time turned off. 

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