Americans—sheesh. Fifty-two percent of Americans report having unused vacation days at the end of the year, according to a recent survey of more than 4,000 U.S. workers.

That’s a total of 705 million days of wasted vacation.

And then when we are on vacation, we check the phone. We fear missing out. We dread coming home to 10,000 unread emails. We keep working.

That’s a problem, because vacation exists for a reason. It’s our time to relax, refresh, recover from burnout. It benefits both us and our employers, because we often return with new ideas and new energy. (I like Anne Lamott’s line: “Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.”)

Obviously, you can turn on Do Not Disturb on your phone, so that only the most important calls and texts come through. Or you can open your Notifications settings and manually turn off notifications for your social-media apps, so you’re not tempted to keep peeking.

Trouble is, nobody does those things. If you’re going to get serious about addressing your work addiction on vacation, you’ve got to be a little bit cleverer.

It’s not easy to unplug when you’re on vacation. (Photo:  Yacine Petitprez.)

Set expectations

Before you go, tell your family or companion what amount of digital involvement you intend to have. “I’m gonna check sports scores at dinner, and headlines in the morning, but that’s it,” you might say.

That way, you feel guilty if you check your phone during the day, and they have permission to nag you if you do.

Use the nuclear email option

Daimler, the German car company, allows employees to set up auto-delete rules for email when they’re on vacation. If you write to them, the auto-response email says:

“I’m on vacation until July 30, so I’ll never see your email. If it’s important, contact my colleague Casey Smith; otherwise, feel free to send your email again after July 30.”

You return from vacation with no waiting email!

And guess what?…

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