productivity; vacations; information management; leadership; focus; priorities


These days, we practically carry the office around with us in our pocket. Smartphones create a digital tether that is hard to sever, even during a precious vacation. If you have a vacation coming up, here’s why you should take time off from your email too.

Compelling research shows we are addicted to email. Despite taking time off, we are always tempted to check back in. And for many people, this happens several times a day, whether we are conscious of it or not. One study found people check email ten times more than they admitted to doing.


Just because we can check email while we’re away doesn’t mean we should. A break is so much more valuable.

After a relaxing vacation we are more creative, focused, motivated and productive. But given the strong temptation to check, we need to have a plan in place to make sure we can properly disconnect. Here are some things you can do:

  • Remove access to email: You can actually delete your mail app and then reinstall it after vacation. If this idea feels too radical for you, consider moving your email app off of your home screen so it is harder to find. You want to be able to take a picture from your phone without being tempted to check email.
  • Manage expectations: Make sure your colleagues know you have a vacation coming up. Get them the things they need before you go and commit to following up soon after you return. If necessary, arrange for people to cover you. And of course, if something urgent comes up (which won’t happen), people can call you.
  • Give yourself permission: Taking a vacation actually makes you more effective. This break is not only good for your health and happiness; it also boosts your performance at work. If you are constantly checking email while on vacation, you won’t reap the benefit of relaxation.

What if you simply must check email on vacation? Maybe you are in the middle of a big deal. Or you have a team relying on your input. Or you’re a new employee who is worried about what your boss is going to think. In these cases, I suggest you establish email boundaries. Allow yourself to check email during short windows that don’t interfere with vacation activities (e.g., before 8a.m. or between 5-6p.m.).

The bottom line is that we should resist spending too much time on email while on vacation, simply out of habit. Disconnecting is tough to do, but it’s well worth the mental break. You will feel far more refreshed and invigorated and this will give you a fresh perspective when you return to the office.