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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work-Life Balance

3 Unconscious Ways You’re Sabotaging Your Time Off From Work

We’ve all been there, right? That long-awaited trip you’ve been planning for months has finally arrived, your inbox is (more or less) under control, and you’re ready for some well-deserved down time. Except there’s just one problem—once you sit down for your first breath of relaxation, something comes over you, and it’s just impossible to disengage from your typical tasks. Everyone has a story or two about a vacation that turned into a workcation that eventually turned into just, well, work. There are some blatant ways you’re letting this happen, but there are also, some more surprising ways you’re sabotaging your time off.

1. You’re Forgetting Your Out-of-Office Notification

One of the most satisfying parts of leaving the office for a little while is that moment when you get to set your out-of-office email responder. Right?

Well, if you’re anything like me, you can think of a few occasions on which you forgot to do yourself the favor of turning it on before you leave. Or, if we're honest, it’s more like you’re “forgetting.” I bet it has something to do with the fact that you just know important things are going to happen while you’re away, clients are still going to want quick responses, and you just can’t live without reading the weekly company update email.

Of course leaving an out-of-office notification won’t be the one thing that stops you from checking email during vacation, but here’s the thing—you probably know that most people you work with will respect it when they see it. So, if you’re leaving without turning that on, you’re only making it harder to enjoy your time off.

2. You’re Giving Your Teammates Your Cell Phone Number

Hey, I get it. You do some pretty impressive, and at times, critical things at work. And you’d hate to lose track of what’s going on, even if that means your days off aren’t quite as refreshing as they should be. But here’s a mistake I made once. On my way out for a birthday weekend a few years ago, I emailed my teammates my cell phone number and said, “If anything comes up, feel free to text me.”

And while you’d think most people would say not to worry about it, if you give people an extra option to get in touch with you, the odds are that they will take you up on the offer. I know you’re just trying to be a good teammate, but often the only person who will ensure that you’re taking is a break is you. So, if you go out of your way to make yourself available during your time off, don’t be surprised if you’re suddenly taking calls and answering emails instead of enjoying what’s supposed to be a relaxing week.

3. You’re Not Including Your Time Just Before Bed as Time Off

It’s pretty tempting to say to yourself, “Eh, I’m about to go to sleep anyway. I might as well check in on what’s been happening.” That’s bad enough when you’re not on a break, but when you’re on an actual vacation from work, it’s even worse. Think about what you’re setting yourself up for by checking in just before you settle in for the night.

You’ll start thinking about all the things you have waiting for you when you get back. Which will affect how you sleep. Which will change how you approach the next day. And if you’re anything like me, you’ll drop everything and hop onto the nearest laptop to make sure everything at work is fine.

But if you wind this back to the beginning, you could’ve avoided all of this if you only avoided checking your inbox the night before. Remember, you’re on vacation. If you want to wind down with bad reality TV shows or a terrible gossip magazine, go right ahead. Just as long as you don’t end the night with a quick scan of the latest messages.

I know that taking a taking time off isn’t always as easy as it sounds, especially when you know that you have a lot to get done. But you’ve worked hard all year, and if you’ve been responsible and made sure that everything is in order before you head out for your break, go ahead and enjoy it. You’ve earned the right to unplug for a little while, so don’t make it even harder on yourself to take a breather from your work. If you give yourself the time you need to recharge, you’ll only be better for it when the time comes to head back into the office.

Photo of person on vacation courtesy of Marc Romanelli/Getty Images.