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I Suck at Taking Time Off (and 5 Ways I Fixed It)

I know people who can take time off easily… they don’t stress, they’re never tempted to check email, they can easily shut down social media for a week, and they find a beach to unwind. They can easily take the, often shared, advise about powering down, not checking email, getting offline, and just relaxing.

That person is NOT me.

While I understand that I don’t have to be on 24/7/365 to be relied on to follow through, keep my word, and meet deadlines; my commitment to getting the job done makes that difficult. However, if I don’t recharge, that sense of responsibility can devolve into over-functioning – a state where you prioritize their work and everyone else’s ahead of your own needs.

As I have grown professionally, I’ve developed these 5 time-off rules that, if observed, make taking time off and, truly, taking a break easier. Following these tips helps me relax and enjoy my time.


Taking time off needs to be deliberate. I don’t start a project without a plan and some preparation… so why should my vacation be any different. Where to go? What to do? What do I need? If it is a plan… I’m more likely to stick to it.


I wasn’t good at this for years.  Spend some time before leaving asking “what does my team need while I’m away so they can thrive and I can rest?”; “what can I delegate in advance so I won’t worry while I’m away?”; and set an out-of-office notification letting people know when I’ll be back and who they should contact in my absence. Additionally, make note in the out-of-office reply that you are taking off the time to recharge and will not be checking emails until returning.


My ideal vacation is going places where I don’t know anyone.  I like intellectual and visual stimulus. I need stuff to do and see. I have friends who love to vacation at B&Bs or the beach, chat with the locals, and make new friends. For me, that would be the opposite of vacation!  The key is to do what is enjoyable for you.


I’ve learned if I pick some goals for my time off, it makes me feel better and enjoy my time off. Your goal can be as simple as reading a few books, taking some pictures, or even a fitness goal. I find exploring museums, zoos, aquariums, sightseeing, and photography to be extremely rewarding. Just a ton of walking, exploring, nice meals, and amazing sights.


It is very easy to check email and stay on top of work at all hours – but it isn’t good for you and it really isn’t good for the company. To manage my stress, my goal isn’t to disconnect completely, as much as moderate. It’s likely that if you are spending too much time checking email instead of enjoying the time off, then you aren’t fully relaxing and that is unhealthy.

Instead, just let yourself flow naturally during your time off. If you planned the time, prepared your team, and are doing something that brings you joy, then the stress of checking emails, or the risk of getting sucked into work will simply vanish.

Taking time to be away from work will make you better at your job. You’ll come back more creative, more productive, and you’ll help stave off some of the health concerns that come with working yourself too hard. Your company will thank you!

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