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How to ... Turn it off while on vacation

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Turning off all work-related communications while away from work can be agonizingly difficult, says executive coach and consultant Doug Van Dyke.

But not impossible.

Van Dyke, who has worked with top executives at American Express, Humana, Sysco Foods and Bright House Networks, among other companies, says there are ways to shut down and relax.

One is to get out of the United States. That's no joke. Van Dyke, who runs Bradenton-based Leadership Simplified, says going abroad forces the issue. “It's flat out easier to unplug when you go international,” Van Dyke says. “Connecting internationally is more difficult and often a lot more expensive.”

Another way to turn it off, that doesn't necessarily involve a global trip, is to set an agenda. The agenda, says Van Dyke, could be “packed with total relaxation,” but at least it's in writing. Then it's something to do that doesn't involve work, checking emails, etc.

No matter where the trip is, or what the agenda is, Van Dyke says it's essential to go to a spot where decision-making is minimal. That's because executives make decisions constantly, so a vacation, even if there's a few work phone calls, should be a time to step out of the routine. “Decision fatigue is real,” Van Dyke says. “You need to give yourself a break.”

Van Dyke talks regularly with clients about life-work balance, if not specifically the issue of shutting down on vacation. While he recognizes how important it is for well-being, he's not perfect at it, either. On a family trip to Australia and New Zealand this summer, Van Dyke totally shut it off. Other getaways, not so much.

“Am I guilty of checking email when on vacation?” asks Van Dyke. “Yes. I'm an offender.”

— Mark Gordon



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