An email free vacation

Thursday October 4th, 2012, 12:02 pm

I chose to disconnect last week whilst on leave. No email, no social media.  Running the business (and me) was delegated to our very able Administrator.  We agreed a process to minimise the post vacation email overload.  Rules were set before leaving to folder all known lower priority emails (eg newsletters).

Meeting request would tentatively accepted.  How often have you as a PA spent time arranging meetings in bosses absence and they return and have different priorities.  One executive once said he felt his PA saw her role as filling up his diary with meetings which he and she then had to Email on the beachundo as his priorities changed.  How often does that happen to you when on leave?  Used in this context ‘tentative’ takes on a new and useful function.

Otherwise, If something was ultra-urgent we agreed she would call/text me.

On the second day sitting having pre-dinner drinks how did I feel watching the three others all with their heads in their iPhones and Blackberrys?  Certainly not left out.  Rather the reverse: included in the here and now and able to people watch and enjoy the gentle lapping of the waves as I relaxed and stayed calm. I can only image this must be what it’s like for a reformed alcoholic watching others drink whilst they nurse a lemonade.

A huge plus was the extra time to read instead of feeling I should decamp early from the pool and go and deal with the day’s email tsunami.   The book was recommended by a colleague. I wanted to email and say how wonderful it was. But what value did it add for either of us?  Had I done so there would have been an email chain which wasted both our times and added to the email overload.

Knowing the business was in safe hands was a wonderful feeling.  Although one worry was that my personal emails come in on my work address.  It is worth separating business and pleasure, but as Steve Jobs famously said he had only one email address.  I make this work for me too.  There is a Hotmail address but that is only used for signing up for white paper and special offers etc.  None of which is life changing if not read for a week.

What of my social diary – golf matches and alike?  Our Administrator dealt with any that looked like they required a response.  So no lost golf games or party opportunities! Two years ago such arrangements were nearly all done by phone. Now of course it’s email, although some friends (and relatives) say they still prefer to talk.  In some ways social engagements were better managed as there was time to think and consider instead of feeling one must make an instant response.

I was tempted to log in during the week and join in when everyone else had their heads in their iPhones etc, but a glass of whisky and the urge evaporated.  After all having delegated, what would that say about the trust placed in our Administrator?  Furthermore, why did I want to disrupt my calm mind.  Also, previously  I have made poor decisions when in holiday mode through lack of context and having all the necessary information to hand.

At the airport again the urge to hit connect welled up. As in my previous blogs my advice for dealing with the holiday email tsunami is talk before checking the email to prioritise and save trawling through stuff which does not merit your immediate attention.  In my case it would be talk and read the ‘read me first email’ as my first day back in the UK was Saturday.  I was two hours ahead of the UK so my briefing email would not be ready until we were in the air.  Some food and drink soon took away the urge to log in.

On my return as expected, the junk had been trashed and the remaining messages prioritised.

Not logging in was as to paraphrase the great Diana Athill ‘ like excess cargo which needed to be dumped’.  I came back feeling more relaxed and able to see the big picture again.  Also an a huge bonus, no post holiday email overload and it was very easy to reach inbox zero on day one of my return.

Of those in the party that did log on.  One person was asked why they did so when the manager did not?  One said they were paid to be available to their clients at all times and yes, someone did want to meet them on Monday.  Could it have waited?  Probably yes.  Did I miss email, twitter etc?  No.  In fact it has left me re-assessing the value of some of these tools.

What is your experience of no email days/weeks when on leave?

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