How to Rescue Your Vacation Before It's Too Late

Did you know that most Americans don't use up all of their vacation days?  If you don't believe me, read about it here.

I try to take two vacations each summer, one in early summer as a bit of a release from the pressure of the end of the year.  Then, in early August, I like to take another week where I can just be with my family and mentally prep for the year ahead.

Unfortunately, this week (which is my 2nd week) has been a huge disappointment.  I've let my job and its various stresses get the best of me.  My wife even said earlier today, "Seems like you're pretty focused on work this week, even though you're supposed to be on vacation."

Sad but true.

I don't wear this like a badge of honor like some people you meet.  You know, the folks at cocktail hours who spout off about how important they are and how "work would never allow me to get away", etc.

My problem is me.  I've allowed my self to fall into a couple of work-related traps that you can avoid if you really want to enjoy your time off.  If you can learn from my mistakes, all the better.

The pitfall of not cleaning up before your vacation. GTD founder David Allen says this about the feeling you get prior to vacation, "Isn't it interesting that people feel best about themselves right before they go on vacation? They've cleared up all of their to-do piles, closed up transactions, renewed old promises with themselves. My most basic suggestion is that people should do that more than just once a year."

I really didn't clean things up before I left for vacation.  It didn't feel tidy and several days later, I don't feel great.  My inbox was full and I had too many loose ends to tend to.  Big mistake.  It's totally worth the time and energy to address messy details before vacation (rather than during your time on the beach with the ones you love; BlackBerry smartphones weren't made to be used in tropical locations!)

The pitfall of being overly reachable during your vacation. My closest team members know how to reach me when things get hot (i.e. an emergency).  I've unfortunately been dealing with phone calls and crisis emails all week.  Even though I use a vacation auto-responder and my voicemail message tells folks that I'm away, my lack of discipline has made me reachable to too many folks.  While I've been writing this post, two calls have come in which needed some of my attention.  Ugh!

The pitfall of working while on vacation. Does this one really need an explanation?

So with all of this said, a vacation can still be rescued from the three pitfalls we discussed.  I'm going to turn off my phone, go back to a few activities that anchor me (journaling, blogging, fishing) and recommit to my family in the days that I have left.

I feel better already.