Working on vacation

View from the Trapp Family Lodge, Stowe, Vermont

I’m on vacation in Vermont right now. And I’m working. I’ll explain how that works out for me. (Your mileage may vary.)

It helps to know a few things:

  • I am completely self-employed. Nobody works for me, and I like it that way; I’m accounts receivable, sales, and the main source of talent for my little business.
  • I get up early, even on vacation.
  • I don’t like to be perceived as unavailable to clients.
  • I want to spend as much time as possible every vacation day with my wife, or doing recreational things like cycling or hiking.
  • My work is 95% electronic — email and Google sharing applications are my main forms of communication and collaboration.
  • I hate coming home from vacation to messes.
  • And, of course, I blog every weekday . . . and I like to think my audience expects to see my posts.

Because of this, I can divide the things I do for business into two categories: work and “work.”

The first category, work, includes things that take effort. That includes conference calls and interviews for book content, research, writing and editing projects, and writing speeches I will give in the future. I have arranged my time on vacation to avoid these things, because they would cut into my enjoyment and relaxation.

The second category, “work,” includes blogging and answering emails. These are easy to do by spending 45 minutes or so every morning and every evening, at times that don’t get in the way of my family time or personal recreation time.

I don’t mind doing “work” on vacation, because it’s fun. For example, while I’ve been here, I’ve closed the deal on a workshop and an editing project. I enjoy conversing by email with clients and potential clients, and I enjoy knowing that money will be coming in because I was responsive to them. I don’t use a “vacation responder” because I want to be accessible and human, not a machine that rejects communication.

And I blog every weekday because I enjoy it, it’s not a chore. (Who wants to do a chore five days a week?) But as you can see, I’m not holding myself to a morning deadline because, hey, I’m on vacation.

This week, as it turns out, is requiring me to complete the editing on a very big writing project. This is the last 2% of the project, and I didn’t want to miss the deadline. So I have carved out time in the morning and the evening for it, because there was no way I was going to be unavailable for this — and because it is the completion of the hard work I already did, even if it is not hard work on its own.

What about “unwinding?”

Many people insist on disconnecting completely from email and phone connections when they are on vacation. I understand the desire to do this. But I don’t disconnect, and even when I worked for others, I didn’t. Here’s why:

First, my work is generally not hugely stressful. I do not have a lot of needy clients (I try to avoid that type of client). In fact, most of my clients are people I am friendly with (a surprising number come from Facebook), and I feel warmly towards them. They are not making insane fire-breathing demands on me. So I have no reason to try to escape them.

Second, a lot of my workday is filled with pleasant and interesting tasks even when I’m not on vacation. So why do I have to avoid them now?

And finally, there is nothing I hate more than that first day back after a vacation, when you are slammed with all the crap that happened while you were out of touch. It’s a lot easier to deal with those things in five minutes when you’re on vacation than have them blow up because you weren’t there to answer the questions.

Yes, if you ask me for help with something that requires work (as opposed to “work”), I’m going to put you off for a few days. I’ll email you that proposal next week. I’ll have that planning meeting next week. If you want my help, you can wait a week. If you’re in a screaming hurry and can’t wait a week, go hire someone else.

I feel no need to completely “unwind” because I’m not completely “wound” all the time.

This is how I work. This is how I do vacation. It’s probably not for you. But it works for me.

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  1. When you love your work, it isn’t a burden… it becomes a joy and fun. You have a wonderful attitude about work and the effect is that you made work into fun. It’s busy, has it’s challenges… but it’s fun. So fun that doing it on some on vacation is still fun.

    I write software for a living. Been writing software for over 35 years. Love what I do. Attitude and skill and challenge – all matters. Mostly I think I get paid to observe things and then explain them. Sometimes to computers. Makes my job fun.

    Remembering to have a life and not only work work work – is a good thing.

    I’m a happy reader of your blog. Been reading since you started – every blog entry. Loved your book. Looking forward to the next one. Keep having fun 🙂

    My blog is mostly about my fight with cancer. Remember family and health… life outside work is important.

  2. My wife and I own a timeshare at Trapp and have spent a week up there every February for the last 30 years. I likewise did work while I stayed there and it was the most relaxing way to prepare for my return home. One recommendation: order some bread from the Green Mountain Inn to take for your friends back home, and get some chocolate for yourselves from Laughing Moon for the trip home. It works for us!

  3. Thank you for your “work” while on vacation. Because of you, your work, and your “work,” I am a better writer. Us loyal readers appreciate you as much as you appreciate us.

    If you ever plan on taking a vacation to Colorado, I’d be glad to take you on a day trip to some beautiful areas in the high country that few tourists ever see.

    For now, enjoy Vermont

  4. Josh – When you’re on vacation do you tend to stay in hotels or vacation/rental homes?

    If the former, may I be the one to trumpet the case for the latter as they make great places to vacation, work, and “work”.

    And full disclosure – I run one.

  5. This is so familiar and a much needed reminder. I’m totally stressing out about projects that are due as well as garden work, since Mother Nature’s deadline can’t be moved. So thank you. I will be following your advice next week.