Why Going ‘Cold Turkey’ on Work Emails During Vacation Is Smart

Why Going 'Cold Turkey' on Work Emails During Vacation Is Smart

Why Going ‘Cold Turkey’ on Work Emails During Vacation Is Smart

When going on vacation, take the opportunity to disconnect and focus on meaningful non-work experiences. You’ll be thankful in the long run.

As a busy entrepreneur, I get it. You can’t possibly fathom disconnecting from work for a week or more. You’re busy running your company, guiding your teams, and serving clients and customers. The company won’t survive without you.

But I believe that’s all the more reason to not only take a vacation, but to 100 percent disconnect from the electronic tether that keeps you mired in the day-to-day.

I too fight the “Type A” battle of a modern business owner — wired to be available for my clients and colleagues 24/7. It’s one of those trade-offs you agree to when you decide to start a business. And like you, my iPhone calls to me, no matter where I am on the planet.

But, I’m also firmly committed to space for family, physical and mental health, inner growth and just plain old ‘me time’. This is one of the values I explore with my clients: Are you able to make the time for what’s most important in your life?

Disconnecting needs to be a mindful decision. So in advance of my vacation last month — two glorious weeks in Israel on an action-packed tour with my wife — I vowed to practice what I preach by putting the phone away and shutting off the constant barrage of work.

Previously, I’d been able to do it in brief spurts — usually on the total relaxation, feet-in-the-sand kind of vacation. But sightseeing over the course of eight days with six strangers was a far cry from lounging on a beach. I was worried I’d need my phone as a distraction during any long waits or awkward silences while traveling from site to site.

Wanting to set myself up for success, I prepped my team well in advance of my trip. My office manager knew how to reach me in an emergency and I gave two other key people permission to text me if they absolutely felt it necessary (guess what? they didn’t). Otherwise, I cleared the decks, set my out of office message and promised myself I would stay away from work. No checking emails or voicemails.

Once in Israel, the nine of us (including our guide, Tomer) embarked for our first stop, Caesarea, an ancient city dating back to Herod’s rule. Plunged back into the far reaches of civilization was breathtaking. The only thing I even considered using my phone for was taking photos and sharing them on Instagram.

Over the course of the tour, we visited a winery, the remains of a British detention camp, the military cemetery at Mt. Hertzl and the Holocaust Memorial (Yad Vashem).

We slathered our bodies with the mud of the Dead Sea and floated in the salt water. We rode camels and looked out over the vast landscape from Masada, the site of the revolt against Roman rule.

We hiked, walked, touched and tasted history through mystical sites, forests, deserts, mountains, valleys, all while listening to the stories of battles, struggles, courage and victories of the people who had lived there.

It put my being out of the office and out of touch in perspective. I didn’t need to be on call. I needed to be steeped in ancient history and fully present in the moment.

I will admit FOMO got the best of me and I did check email about mid-way through my trip. But we all know there’s no such thing as “just checking in” when you are an entrepreneur. As soon as I realized my mind was too focused on work and I felt my stress level start to rise, I gracefully backed out of the two conversations I started and didn’t look again. Surprisingly, I wasn’t even tempted.

Then something magical happened. Our group began spending more time together. As we opened up to one another, we shared our family stories. A father’s remarkable escape from Nazi-occupied Europe at 13 years old was the captivating story that really brought us together in a meaningful way.

The same people I thought I might need a distraction from became a highlight of the trip. If my nose was buried in my phone or my head firmly planted in what was happening back in the office, I’d have missed the full experience.

Disconnecting from work provided me the opportunity to completely connect not only with my fellow travelers, but the raw beauty of the ancient landscape, and to restore my mind, body and spirit.

Judging from the feedback since I’ve been back, I’m confident that I’m not the only business owner who would benefit from a work-free vacation. So why not break through your comfort zone of “always on” and schedule your version of the perfect summer break?

This story was originally written by Michael Kay for Inc.com.