In late April my family and I headed to Florida to attend a wedding and to get some time away from the long, long, winter we were having in Minnesota. We all needed a break from school, work and weather. And I was told by my family that I needed to take a break from checking email, especially my work email.
I gather most people can step away from their computers during vacation. But the thought of not checking email for not just a day but five days just boggled my mind. It didn't seem possible. It didn't seem like a smart thing to do because, you know, someone might NEED to reach me. Someone might have a problem that only I could solve. Something on the website I maintain might break. Something might go wrong...
But my husband, Owen, reminded me that people go on vacation all the time and don't check email. That it's actually okay, even healthy, to step away from work once in awhile. And, Owen gently mentioned, I had been in such a stressed out state over work that it would be better for the family if I stepped away from my email for a few days and just relaxed.
"I'm not that stressed out, am I?" I asked Owen.
If Owen was an eye rolling type of person, he would have rolled his eyes. Instead he said, "Yes" followed by a list of examples of how stressed I've been.
I will spare you the details. It was a long list.
So I set up an "out of office" message on my work email and arranged for other people to keep an eye on the website I maintain while I was gone.
Guess what? I did it. I didn't check my email one time on vacation. In fact, I didn't check it until the day after I got home.
And guess what else? Everyone survived. Nothing broke. The world did not end. And I learned that I can really step away from my email, from work, and it's okay. In fact, my email break wasn't just okay it was great - great for me and for my family.
With the knowledge that, yes, I can survive without checking email constantly, I got home from vacation I started something new - I set some boundaries around my email.
Now instead of checking email at all hours I check my work email once a day, maybe twice. I am working to set office hours and making progress in telling myself, "I'll deal with that when I'm in my office."
I still get worried that someone HAS to reach me, that the website I maintain is falling apart and someone will be upset with me for not replying right away. But, oh well. I guess I'll deal with that when I'm back in my office :-)