This is your brain on vacation

I have 2 more days in the office until I’m on vacation. 4 days off and 6 days of fun in total.

I’m glad before I left, this article on Vacation Sabotage got my attention with the line, “Before I go on vacation, even for a week, I prepare as though I’m headed to the coroner. I empty the in-box, clean the piles on the desk, put away all the laundry, dust.” Matt Richtel notes that we arm ourselves for vacation as if we’re preparing to die.

Of course, this is an exaggeration, but I’ve always found that the language co-workers use around vacation is a bit troubling. You hear about how stressed the week beforehand is as the person gets her affairs in order. The week of it, there’s talk about checking e-mail and the mounting load of work. Upon return, more than the memories of the trip, it’s all about the 100s of e-mails to pore through.

Why do we allow ourselves to get into this mental trap? I certainly argue that’s what it is. I like how this article identifies that we do it to ourselves. When you’re gone for 3 days, it’s not such a big deal, but adding a couple more seems to change that for some reason. I think the magical thing about vacation is when you return, processing e-mail is 10x faster than normal. Many requests have already been handled by colleagues and others are just pointless or past relevance.

So starting Saturday during my time off, I’ll take my own advice and truly get away. There will be no “cubicle in my pocket” and I won’t be thinking about my desk or my projects. Thinking from afar is never productive; it doesn’t get things done.

Even when not on vacation, I challenge you all to change your relationship with your device and not let your smartphones tempt you into working whenever you have a spare moment in line or standing around. Instead take a deep breath and remember what it was like to be bored. Remember those days, when we didn’t feel like we had to be doing something every second of the day?

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