Tropical islands, mountain getaways and remote locations may force us to limit our cellphone use while we are on vacation this summer. And while some of us love the idea of disconnecting for a little digital detox while we are away, for others the thought of abandoning email, voicemail or other office lifelines may inspire more dread than relaxation.

Instead of hiding in the bathroom sending emails, take these five simple steps to stay connected and still relax on vacation.

Mirror, Mirror

The first step is to be realistic about what really requires your input and must be completed in the time you are gone. Most of us have gotten in the habit of scheduling vacations around busy times or deadlines.

Inevitably, though, things change. Make a list of any items that might require your attention and then delay or delegate as many as possible. For whatever remains, get clear on the steps, time frames and work required for each item.

Set the Stage

Second, stick to the list. Communicate with team members, bosses, colleagues, clients, etc., and be clear and consistent regarding you are (and are not) available for.

Tell them in person and reiterate it in your out-of-office message. If possible, designate a proxy in your absence, then note that when you inform everyone.


Emergencies can happen. Outside of the list, make sure at least one person knows how to reach you in case of a true emergency. Then, be clear what counts as an emergency and how you want the message conveyed.

For example, a colleague of mine had a pregnant team member who ended up giving birth a month early while my colleague was on vacation. After a day out with her family, my colleague came back to a message from the front desk that her office had called regarding the pregnant team member.

Because of the time zone, it was not until the next day that my worried colleague was able to confirm it was good news and the baby was fine. Thus, be sure there are clear parameters set for what constitutes an emergency and how the information is conveyed.

Dress Rehearsal, Encore

Fourth, before leaving and upon return, set aside clear, unmovable blocks of time to organize and prioritize work. Having a clear head and a clear desk before leaving reinforces the short list of things to address while you are gone.

Further, returning to a calendar that affords time to sort, organize, prioritize and focus will ensure you are able to hit the ground running once you are back in the office.

Finally, be honest with your travel companions about any deadlines, emergencies or work commitments that require you to stay connected and explain the parameters you have set to handle them. Be clear about when you will (and will not) check in with the office, how long it will take and stick to it.

Being clear with yourself, the people in the office and those traveling with you helps everyone understand your focus and priorities. Stick to the rules you put in place and you will be free to enjoy yourself while setting a great example!