While our family doesn’t take big vacations very often, we do make a point of slipping away when we can. Each year we get together with my parents, my two brothers and their families for four days in an Estes Park lodge. All 24 of us eat and play and shop and relax and eat some more, all while building some amazing memories. I try really hard not to look at my phone, but usually end up returning more than a few emails.

Then each summer, Shad and I take a couple of days and head to Denver to revisit our youth. We grew up in the 80s and love nothing more than a good rock concert, even if the lead singers can’t hit the high notes anymore. Last year we made the trek to Coors Field to watch Def Leppard and Journey. It was amazing… one of the best concerts I have been to, but I have to admit, I did more on my phone that just upload a selfie to Instagram.

A study by the University of Helsinki suggests that taking a vacation can actually help you live longer. Sounds great, until you realize more and more Americans are packing their laptop along with their beach gear. A new study from Accountemps shows 56 percent of Americans work on vacation… up 15 percent in just the last three years. Somehow I don’t think that is the kind of vacation the Helsinki researchers had in mind.

It is good for us to get away… to take a break… to unplug from the daily grind, but how do we do that when technology so easily ties us to our desk? I’ve done a little research and found some ideas from SLChamber.com that just might help.

  1. Get ready. Talk to your boss, co-workers, employees and clients so they know you’re going to be gone and set the expectation of being unavailable. Get as much done ahead of time as possible, and then trust the system. You work with great people… they can handle things.
  2. Make a plan and stick to it. If you say you’re not going to respond to emails, then don’t. If you tell them you’re not going to take their calls, then don’t answer. If you need to be available at some point, then set the time and stick with it. Consistency is the key.
  3. Travel service-free. Unplug, literally. There are still parts of this country and others where service is spotty or nonexistent. If you think you’ll cave, go there. You can’t be reached, if you can’t be reached.
  4. Don’t take your gear. Leaving your laptop behind will limit what you can do and when. It will also make traveling less cumbersome
  5. Consider a work-free vacation culture. If you’re an owner or manager, consider implementing a policy to not contact people while they are on vacation. Your employees will come back not only refreshed, but studies show more productive as well.

In the end, we all need to ask ourselves… “If I’m working on vacation, is it really a vacation at all?” Maybe we should get our heads out of our laptops and enjoy our vacations. We’ve earned them.