Going on vacation? How to back away from the BlackBerry

Monday - 7/9/2012, 7:58pm EDT

Tim McManus, vice president for education and outreach, Partnership for Public Service

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By Keith BieryGolick
Special to Federal News Radio

Federal employees don't necessarily need to "unplug" from work to enjoy a vacation and come back refreshed.

Sometimes a little bit of work on vacation can be therapeutic, said Tim McManus, vice president for education and outreach at the Partnership for Public Service, in an interview on In Depth with Francis Rose. And with smartphones creating even less of a distinction between hours spent at work and hours at home, that's a practical idea.

"When I go on vacation I typically do look at the email once a day. I try not to do it more than once a day, but for me it's actually a little therapeutic and helpful to look at it once a day, and triage it a bit," McManus said. "[It's] not necessarily that I'm spending hours and hours, or even a lot of minutes, on responding to things but at least highlighting, OK, these are the things that I have to focus on immediately when I get back so that the crush of a ton of emails don't hit me when I get back."

Planning ahead is key

But the best way to avoid the inevitable onslaught of unread emails is to simply plan ahead, McManus said. "So many of us, if we don't prepare for it in advance, what we do is spend the first few days of our vacation worrying about everything that's not getting done in the office and then by the time we hit that point of relaxation we start worrying about the reentry and worry about everything that's going to go wrong once we get back into the office."

In those circumstances, "If you look at a week, typically there are two, maybe three days, if you're lucky, that you actually get to escape," he said.

Part of that useful planning involves setting aside time after your return to catch up, which also can benefit an employee at the back-end of their vacation, McManus said.

"(Setting) aside some time so that you can 'catch up' is actually going to really be beneficial to you — not only in the reentry, but in those last few days of your vacation as well, when you're not worried about 'Oh, I've got so much stuff that's going to be hitting me in the face tomorrow.'"

McManus said everyone needs time off, but it's OK if work creeps into your vacation, as long as you control it.

"It's really, really healthy for all of us to step away and say, 'This is time for me and my family; this is time for me and my hobbies,'" he said. "If you need to have some work-related things come into play while you're on vacation, read a good book that actually relates somehow or another to your work life. Go out and catch a good movie that you can glean something from that is both relaxing and refreshing for you, but also has some ties or some themes to something you may be doing at work."

Keith BieryGolick is an intern at Federal News Radio

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