I need help when it
comes to disconnecting from the wired world and just
enjoying a vacation or a couple of days off. I thought I was
unique, but I’m not alone: There are others out there for whom
unplugging is outright painful.
How do you know you have a problem? If
you tend to text-message in theaters until the split second the
curtain goes up, if you try to talk on your cell phone during a
root canal, if you consider a non-Wi-Fi zone the equivalent of
North Korea or if you’ve ever been shushed at a funeral, you
probably would do well to rethink your dependence on electronic
So, how to turn off so you can finally
unwind and enjoy some real down time or, heaven forbid, an extended
Follow these steps to clear the decks
* Make a list of the
critical projects you are involved in. Determine an alternate
contact for each, and brief those individuals on how to handle
things while you are gone. Make sure they have adequate information
to answer any questions, and make sure the key people involved know
whom to contact in your absence (other than you).
* Designate one person
people should call if they must get in touch with you.
That person should have the discretion of notifying you in case of
an emergency and is the only person with whom you will communicate
while you’re gone.
* Give advance notice
of your impending vacation via your voice mail, e-mail and all
other communication devices. To really stay ahead of the game, post
the message a full week before you leave. For example, your
outgoing message might indicate: “I will be out of the office and
unreachable by e-mail or cell phone from Monday, Jan. 5, through
Monday, Jan. 12. If you have something important to discuss, please
contact me before then.”
* Call or e-mail key
contacts to let them know you will be unavailable, and
give them a point of contact in your absence.
* Just before leaving,
set up your vacation e-mail and voice mail to clearly state that
you are out of the office and will not be answering your e-mail or
cell phone. Note when you will be back in the office and provide a
phone number and e-mail address of the designated contact person if
someone must reach you before your return.
How to keep the addiction at bay once
you’re on vacation?
* Don’t take work with
you; it just might trigger a desire to call the
* Adjust in
increments. Take the first 48 hours of your vacation to be
totally out of touch. Use this time as an adjustment period. On the
third day, if you feel the need to pick up the phone or start
sending/checking e-mail, ask yourself this: Is this call or message
really necessary, or can I go another 24 hours? The answer most
likely is no, it’s not that important.
* If you must call,
check in with your point of contact only. If someone urgently
needed you, your contact will know and either will have handled the
issue or will have an update for you.
* If there is an
issue, determine if it’s something that has to be
addressed ASAP. What are the consequences if you wait until you
return? Can you have your point of contact delegate someone else to
* Can’t hack it? Those
who really need a break but don’t trust themselves to follow the
tips listed above should consider one of the growing number of spas
and hotels that offer a lock-up service: They’ll take your
Blackberry or cell phone and keep it safe from your reach for the
duration of your stay.
The bottom line: It’s really not that
hard to disconnect. You just need to plan for it.
Bob Walters,based in Fort Worth, Texas, is founder of Phoenix Solutions
and developer of MeetingTrak Software.