How to Actually Detach Yourself From Work Over the Holidays


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The holiday season is that special time of year for kicking back, spending quality time with family, and…answering emails from your boss and scrolling through Slack notifications. Nope, not this year! If you’re taking a break this holiday season—a real break—that should also include breaking from work. Technology can make that more difficult than it needs to be, though, however strong your resolve may be. Here are some tips for making the disconnection a little smoother and more complete.

Don’t use your work tech (unless you have to)

Phones, laptops, tablets, whatever—if it’s used for work, don’t use it. Don’t open it, don’t look at it. Sure, all you intended to do was watch a funny YouTube video on your work laptop, but as soon as you open it, there’s a thread of messages and requests that definitely could have waited until after the New Year. So if you’re going on a trip, leave these devices behind entirely. If you’re staying at home, put them in a drawer. Give yourself a fighting chance here.

Now, this isn’t possible for everyone. Your work phone might also be your personal phone, or your work laptop might be your only computer. If so, you can try using the rest of these tips to limit your exposure to work notifications. However, the advice still stands; if you don’t need to use your work tech over the holiday, don’t.

Grab important files or apps before the break

On a related note, be sure to take any apps, photos, videos, or other files you’ll want over the break from these work devices before starting your holiday. That way, you can put away or leave your devices behind, while having all the info you wanted.

Did your coworker send you a funny link on Slack? Bookmark it before you sign off. Think you’ll want to check out those holiday party pictures someone emailed to the team? Download them now. You don’t want to open these apps or devices to retrieve these things if you don’t have to.

Mute notifications for work apps

Of course, sometimes our work equipment blends together with our personal tech. If you use works app on your smartphone or personal laptop, mute their notifications before heading out for your R&R.

I see plenty of comments out there about how triggering the Microsoft Teams alert sounds are, and you might feel similarly about other iconic sounds in your various work apps. You don’t want those disrupting any part of your break. Who knows; you might find the lack of notifications so peaceful, you decide to never turn them back on.

Use a Focus mode (iOS only)

If you use an iPhone, you can take full advantage of iOS 15’s new Focus feature to completely block your work apps and contacts from your holiday plans. Just build a Focus that stops notifications from Slack, Gmail, coworkers you don’t want to talk to, etc., then enable it for the duration of your vacation.

You can learn more about how to build a Focus from our guide here.

Set your statuses appropriately

It would be a shame to effectively cut yourself off from your work apps and devices, only to have an unknowing coworker ping and call you anyway. To prevent this scenario, make sure you make it clear you’re on vacation. If you use chat apps like Slack or Teams, set your status to say you’re out of the office.

The same can be said for email; don’t forget to set an automated response so anyone trying to get in touch with you via email knows what you’re up to. Double-check that your days off are also visible in the work calendar, so your team knows when you’re away and when you’ll be back.

Turn off your alarm clock!

Oh boy, this one sucks to forget. The first Monday of vacation, and your phone starts buzzing and chirping at your usual wake-up time of 6 a.m. What should have been a glorious morning of sleeping is now ruined. Before heading off on break, sweep your phone’s clock app to disable any of these alarms until you’re back at work.

Now, it might not just be on you to remember these alarms; smartphones are getting smarter, and you might see a suggestion to disable an upcoming alarm if your vacation is in your calendar. Still, it’s worth double-checking.