The way we vacation is broken and we at White Lion are doing something about it.

White Lion — March 08, 2018

Are you more of a mountain or beach vacation person?

Think about your last vacation when you were either digging your toes in that white sand or inhaling that crisp mountain air. You were truly present and in the moment. Then your phone shouts at you, and… it’s the office. After being in that zen-like state with the blood pressure of a turtle, think about the mental energy it takes to access the ‘work’ side of your brain to help solve the work emergency. Then think about how long it takes to finally wind back down to find that full-on relaxed state again. Switching from personal to work and back to personal again is mentally draining.

So, can we truly unplug when we bring our work along with our friends or family on vacation?

We are Losing Out on Our Vacation Time

According to MarketWatch, half of Americans are losing out on hard earned paid vacation time. Why? Many are giving up on vacation days because of the very real fear of getting further behind at work. Coming back to an avalanche of emails can add significant stress to what should be a stress-free and relaxing experience (unless of course, you are traveling with young kids!)

Plugged-in Vacations Cause Us to Miss Out on Memories

As we are always studying and looking for ways to apply behavioral science to our work, we were intrigued when we came across this cognitive research study conducted by UT Austin and Home Away. The study shows that if we check email for just an hour per day then we are 43% more likely to have trouble remembering our vacation. Wow! What is the point of spending money to take a vacation with your family and friends if you can’t even remember it?

Our Phones Stress Us Out on Vacation

In an article in Harvard Business Review, research shows the mere presence of our phone stresses us out, even if we aren’t using it. It can be very difficult to fully relax and recover from work when our work is just a few clicks away, demanding our attention from our smartphones at the drop of a hat.

Fellow Future Vacationers – let’s chose to vacation better!

With our organization’s buy-in, a little planning, and the right mindset, we can all relearn how to vacation so we come back refreshed and ready to innovate and deliver our best work.

As for the following concepts, our team wanted to give this approach a name, so here goes…

‘Operation Vacation Salvation!’

As hardworking individuals, we believe everyone should enjoy a stress-free vacation, both during the time away and upon returning. Nothing ruins a vacation quicker than the thought of returning to the landslide of emails and work that awaits you, which is why we believe you should plan for both your time away as well as your return.

All it takes is a little upfront planning and expectation setting.

For vacations that span a week or more…

  • A little upfront notification to your key contacts will allow you to experience actually being truly excited to come back to work for a change!
  • Set the expectation with your team and customers how you will be taking a fully unplugged vacation and not checking email. Further, notify key people how all email sent during vacation time will be deleted upon return.
  • If you are in sales, proactively notify all key prospective customers ahead of time, too.
  • If you are in a leadership role, notify select alliance partners, vendors, or third parties with your upcoming absence and use of the approach.
  • If needed, schedule a departing meeting with key team members to make sure all of your bases are covered before you leave.
  • Set your out-of-office message to list at least one person who will be covering for you while you are away.
  • Your out-of-office message will kindly ask people to resend the email when you return OR to reach out to your out-of-office contact if the need is immediate.
  • Update your voicemail greeting with the same messaging as your out-of-office email notification, asking for a return call when you arrive back at work or reaching out to your out-of-office contact.
  • Make it so there is no need to have your laptop on your vacation. Eliminate the temptation!
  • Remove and turn off email notifications on your smartphone to avoid any unneeded work distractions.
  • Tell your team to only call or text with a true emergency and define what a true emergency is.
  • Ask your key team members to share a Google doc to keep notes on important information when you are away to share with you when you get back.
  • Before you head out, schedule “update meetings” with your team on the day you return to get a rundown of what you need to know.

Next comes the somewhat scary and yet highly liberating part….

  • When you return, delete all emails and enjoy your reentry back to work starting from a clean inbox. Pro tip: While you are away, you can also create a rule to route all messages with your name in the To: field directly to your deleted items folder.
  • If you have any other forms of communication with your team, such as instant messaging or forum boards like Slack or Twist, be sure to mark all of those messages as read.
  • Begin your time back at work feeling refreshed and ready to unleash your best quality work; like you should after a much-deserved vacation!

Let’s Put it to the Test

As the leader of the pride here at White Lion, I will be putting all of the principles of the Operation Vacation Salvation listed above to use on my upcoming road trip with my family to Durango, Colorado.

Here is our out-of-office message template:


***This is an automated message***


PLEASE NOTE: This message will NOT be read and WILL be deleted.

If your message is urgent, please get with my contact listed below. Otherwise please resend your email when I return to the office on [ENTER RETURN DATE].

I am out of the office [ENTER DEPARTURE DATE] returning on [ENTER RETURN DATE].

As we support Operation Vacation Salvation, I will not be checking email and all email collected when I am away will be deleted.

Thank you for helping me be fully unplugged!

While I am out, if you have an urgent matter, contact [ENTER CONTACT NAME] at either [ENTER EMAIL ADDRESS] or by calling [ENTER PHONE NUMBER].

Remember to kindly resend your email when I return on [ENTER RETURN DATE].

Looking forward to connecting then!

To Your Success,


What About Shorter Vacations?

Being a lifelong learner and passionate to hunt out any framework or methodology that will improve lives, I launched a productivity consultancy Gray Wolf Workflow, a few years back. For shorter vacations, check out my tips in this 1-Minute Productivity episode, ‘7 Practical Planning Tips To Help You Unplug During Your Next Vacation.’

So, How Did it Go?

When I return from the mountains, I will share what worked, what didn’t work, and how the approach can be improved. Be on the lookout and stay tuned!

Let me ask you a question. Are you going to be courageous and help your team get their vacations back and share ‘Operation Vacation Salvation?’ We hope you are inspired to do just that and an easy way to get that out is to use our social media links at the bottom of the page to instantly share with your network.

Feel free to send me and email if I can help answer any questions you have.

To Your Success,


P.S. Being a huge fan of Feedly, when returning I will also mark all of my RSS/news feeds as ‘read’ so I can start back fresh with following the technology, productivity, and news content that matters to me.

P.P.S. From a productivity front, whether I am traveling on vacation or not, I have all notifications (the Apple engineers call them ‘badges’) turned off, except for phone calls and text messages. It is amazing how much more freeing it is not seeing my key applications buzzing with notifications.

Here is a screenshot of my phone:

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