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You can email on holiday

Average reading time – 4 minutes 50 seconds

Today is my first day back in the office after nearly three weeks on holiday and I’m full of ideas for the weeks, months and year ahead.

But before I can get started on any of that I have a confession and an apology.

Whilst on holiday, I found an area where I’ve not been one hundred per cent authentic. I’ve not been walking my talk.

Many leadership mentors and performance coaches, me included, will tell you that you should totally switch off when you’re on holiday. For a long time I have told my clients how important it is for them to not look at their emails whilst they are off work.

But the reality is, for highly successful, driven people like you and me, my suggestion is like telling a hard-core drug addict to go ‘cold turkey’.

It’s just not realistic.

This forced disconnection is likely to cause more stress and anxiety during a time when we are supposed to be relaxing.

And here’s the confession. If I’m really honest, I’ve never completely switched off from work when I’m on holiday.

I’m always reading a business book or scribbling down thoughts and ideas in my journal.

The truth is, just like the alcoholic who is still in denial, I’ve always had a sneaky check of my emails on holiday when I thought my wife wasn’t looking! And at the same time I’ve criticised her for doing the same and allowed it to become a source of tension in our relationship.

So you see, I’m just the same as you. I don’t always get this stuff right.


Having to versus wanting to…

I want to be really clear here. I’m not telling you that you should check your emails on holiday.

What I am clear on is that we are all different.

There are some fundamental principles that allow us to perform at a high level for a sustained period of time. And at the same time, we need to adapt these principles so that they work for us.

Over the past few years I’ve been checking my emails on holiday because I want to.

I’ve checked them because I love what I do, I value my clients and I draw great energy from being of service to those I work with.

This is different from checking my emails because I feel I have to; which I had for many years when someone else employed me.

I suspect you’re familiar with how it feels when you think you have to check your emails.

We’ve all been there and it’s usually a result of one of two things, possibly both.


1. Inbox overload

We’re worried about coming back to an inbox of 500+ unread emails. This worry can manifest itself as fear, dread, overload or even stress.

Just thinking about it may cause us to be irritable with our loved ones and snap at them whilst we’re meant to be relaxing on holiday.


2. Reputation damage

We worry that something will go wrong while we are away or one of our team will let us down.

I’m not going to sugar coat this next point. This is a leadership failure on our part.

If this is the case then your leadership style is likely to be one of micro-management.

You are having these feelings because you haven’t supported and developed your team enough, or you haven’t delegated tasks properly; possibly both.

If this is you, grab a copy my Weekly Planning Protocol Toolkit here.


The high achiever’s holiday routine

So here’s what I’m suggesting on a very tactical and pragmatic level.


1. Plan ahead

Allocate more time than you think is necessary for delegating tasks and briefing your team and/or Executive Assistant before you go on holiday.

This isn’t the last task to do, in the last hour of your last day in the office before sprinting out the door for your holiday!


2. Check your emails

If you want to check your emails on holiday, then go ahead and do it guilt-free. But make sure that you allocate specific periods of time to do so, as opposed to constantly looking at your phone.

On my holiday last week I sat opposite a mum, dad and their daughter in the hotel restaurant one evening. The three of them spent the entire meal on their individual devices with little or no real interaction as a family.

I’m not judging them, merely reporting what I see on a fairly regular basis.

Please don’t let this be you.

If you are going to check your emails, do your best to be fully present in the moment and enjoy the time with your loved ones.


3. Reply with caution

Think very carefully about replying to emails on holiday.

If you reply to emails whilst on holiday, those that you lead will think that this is what you expect of them and that is what is required to make progress in your organisation.

This may or may not be your intention, but this is undoubtedly what those that you lead will think.


4. Let your mind wander

The science on this is clear. As a “Corporate Athlete” it is critical that we give our brains the opportunity to rest and recover in the same way that an elite sports person does.

We know that when we allow our mind to switch off and clear, fresh ideas and insights start flowing much more freely.

But I suspect that you know this already. I’m guessing that your best ideas generally come when you’re taking a shower, walking the dog or going for a long run!


Still need help?

If you’re ready to kick your work and life on to a new level I have just two one-to-one coaching and mentoring slots available for 2018.

I have one space on my one-to-one, elite Mentoring Programme and space for one more coaching client.

If you want to know more, click here for more information and then email me at or book a free 30-minute call here.

Ok. That’s it for now. Hope this has been super valuable.


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