What does “vacation” mean to YOU?

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Carly enjoying a relaxing vacation at the cottageIn the Canadian Oxford Dictionary, “vacation” is defined as

“a period of several days or weeks spent away from work or school etc., used esp. for recreation and travel; a holiday.”

A growing number of executives and small business owners rarely, if ever, take a vacation.” quote=”A growing number of executives and small business owners rarely, if ever, take a vacation. At least not in the traditional sense, where they go away (or stay at home) to just relax or do some projects around the house. Instead, they bring along their laptops, tablets and/or smartphones so they can stay on top of their email, even if it’s only for half an hour a day.

I know someone who took a vacation week during the summer, but she didn’t go away. In fact, she didn’t even stop working. Instead, she made herself unavailable to clients, and used the time to focus on some writing projects for her own business.

Although I haven’t booked a summer vacation every year since I started my business, whenever I have, it’s been work-free. I love my work, but it’s always great to be able to just relax and enjoy my surroundings and the company of my family.

I’m able to do that by taking two simple steps:

  • notifying my regular clients well in advance that I won’t be available during that time
  • putting an “out of office” message on my email and voicemail, letting people know who to contact if they need anything while I’m away

My associate knows how to reach me in case of emergency, so I don’t have to worry about a thing!

The first time I took a vacation from my business, I discovered that the world didn’t fall apart because I wasn’t there to manage things. And it wasn’t because business was slow – in fact the months before and after that week were some of the busiest I’ve ever had.

What are your vacation plans? Will you travel or stay at home? Will you check messages, work on your business, or go for complete R&R?

This post was originally published on From the Desk of Janet Barclay in 2008 and has been updated for Your Organizing Business.

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A former professional organizer, I now eliminate stress for my clients by hosting, monitoring, and maintaining their WordPress sites so they don’t have to worry about security, downtime or performance issues. When I’m away from my desk, I enjoy reading, photography, watching movies, and cooking.

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  1. Avatar Mobile Phone Accessories on July 26, 2008 at 3:56 am

    I have always love vacations (who doesn’t)? But for a businessman like me, I would not recommend long vacations. Besides the bunch of email that i get, when I’m from vacation, I don’t know where to start my work then.

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on July 12, 2015 at 1:41 pm

      What I do, when I get back, is sort my Inbox by sender, then go through my messages and quickly delete anything that doesn’t require my attention. After my last vacation, only one-third of the email I received actually did – and that includes any newsletter-type messages that I knew I’d want to read, or that were too long to make a quick decision.

      It also helps to allow a day or two between your return home and your official back-to-work date to clean up your email, listen to voice mails, open paper mail, and generally get organized before you get into the full swing of things.

  2. Avatar Sabrina on July 2, 2015 at 9:10 pm

    I just took vacation. We went on a cruise and 3 days with no cell service. Now that is a vacation. We were able to make it through, but boy were we happy when we could reconnected with the world.

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on July 3, 2015 at 6:26 am

      Wow, that’s great! I haven’t been truly disconnected since the smartphone became a key part of my day-to-day life. Part of me would like to experience it, but the other part is afraid to find out what it would be like!

  3. Avatar Seana Turner on July 8, 2015 at 12:03 pm

    This is a tricky one, Janet. “Getting away from it all” has definitely become harder. I’ve found a new “balance” on vacation. I let people know I will be away, and plan in advance for various projects and posts to be taken care of. At the same time, I don’t completely abandon my phone.. to be honest, this would stress me out. Instead, I allocate a small amount of time each day to “check in,” and handle any emergencies. I find that I’m more relaxed this way. Each of us is different, and the type of job we have may contribute to the way in which we unplug. The key is to find a way that refreshes and restores, whatever that looks like.

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on July 12, 2015 at 1:44 pm

      That sounds like a great approach, Seana. Being virtual, I’ve wondered whether I could afford to extend my time away if I spent a portion of the time working, but I’m not sure it would be the same experience.

  4. Avatar Lisa Montanaro on July 8, 2015 at 1:47 pm

    Love this post Janet! And it is timely for me as I am preparing to be out of the country on vacation for a month. Yes, a whole month! I will be living La Dolce Vita in Italy with my husband and we can’t wait. We are total Europhiles and after his grueling 3 year residency, we are looking forward to quality time before he starts his new position in the fall.

    We will have our smart phones with us, but neither of us will be working. All of my clients know I will be away and they are taking the month off of their coaching. My online team will be available in case someone needs something, and I will check email periodically, but other that that, I will be blissfully on a real vacation. Ah… 🙂

    One of the nice things about traveling in Europe is that I get an international plan for the month in case of emergencies and so I can check back in at home if needed, BUT overall the phone is off or on airplane mode and we only use Wifi. We will be relaxing, hiking, and then cycling for a week out on the open road from town to town. We did this once before in France and it was so awesome to truly unplug after being so connected all of the time.

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on July 12, 2015 at 1:54 pm

      Bon Voyage, Lisa, and thanks for your comments! It sounds like you’ve developed a great system.

  5. Avatar Jill Robson on July 8, 2015 at 3:58 pm

    Janet, we have not taken a vacation away from home in 6 years, it is my husband who has a hard time taking vacation time. He is a mechanic and as such gets paid peace work, in his previous place of employment they would pay them a lump sum of holiday pay with this new job they get paid while they are on vacation.
    So far I have only convinced him to take one week, although he can take 3. However for that one week we are going to be off the grid, I have no problem letting go off technology, our 13 year old will be a different matter.

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on July 12, 2015 at 2:01 pm

      I’m so glad you’ve talked him into taking a week off! Hopefully it will remind him how great it is to have a break, and he’ll want to do it again sooner, and more often.

  6. Hazel Thornton Hazel Thornton on July 2, 2016 at 1:09 pm

    I’m with you, Janet. There isn’t anyone who can’t do without me for a week or two. I haven’t been traveling much lately, for a combination of reasons, but when I do I’m pretty inaccessible. In my world, the type of work I do, and the type of clients I have, there are no organizing emergencies. Deciding I want to be unplugged (to a large extent), and setting expectations, is all it takes. This reminds me, too, of professional conferences. I treat them like vacations, for the most part, and immerse myself in learning and networking. I do check daily (but not hourly) for messages, and reply briefly to potential clients who would not know I’m away, but I notice others constantly on their phones dealing with clients and situations, which is surely distracting them from the conference experience. Something that helps free me up is TimeTrade, a scheduling tool that clients (and potential clients) can use to make appointments with me without any back and forth with me via email or phone. All I have to do is block out times I am NOT available. And point them in that direction, if they haven’t already seen the link on my website.

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on July 13, 2016 at 11:05 am

      Great insight, Hazel – and thanks for sharing the tip about TimeTrade. I hadn’t thought about tools like that making it easier to disconnect during vacations and conferences.

      Some people think they’re too important to make themselves unavailable, but I think I’m too important to NOT take time for myself to replenish myself physically, mentally and creatively so I can continue to provide the level of service my clients expect.

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