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Road Warriors

Leave work behind while on vacation

Unplugging from the office gets your mind and body in balance

By Marnie Hunter



(CNN) -- As summer heats up, more business travelers are veering off their regular schedules for some much-needed time off.

Making the most of that time -- whether you're at home or on a leisure trip -- means disconnecting from what's going on at work.

"It really is critical for people to get time off when they're not tethered to a cell phone or a laptop answering e-mails," said Karon Wright, president and founder of Achievement Partners, an executive coaching and management development firm based in Thousand Oaks, California.

Getting your mind and body back into balance is what time off is all about, and you can't rest and recover if you're not taking your vacation days.

A third of employed adults in the United States do not always take all of their vacation days, according to a 2006 survey.

Consider the following advice for a better chance of getting away from work and returning more refreshed and motivated.

Clarify employer expectations

Separate what you think is expected of you from real expectations, Wright advised.

"Really take some time to evaluate the culture of your company, to talk with others, to talk with your boss to get real clarity around his or her expectations," she said.

Sometimes your absence will not affect operations as much as you fear.

"Quit thinking you're so important that the place will burn down if you're not there," said Jim Bird, CEO of, an Atlanta, Georgia-based company that provides stress and time management training to organizations and corporations.

Set boundaries

When you have time off, don't bring work with you.

"When you're going on vacation, the first thing to do is tell everybody, 'Don't call me, don't send me an e-mail, don't contact me unless this place is burning down and I'm the only one that can save it,' " Bird said.

Wright advised, "Be clear with yourself and others what a true emergency is."

If you have to check in, Bird recommends doing it early so that you can focus on your personal pursuits for the rest of the day.

Commit to getting away

Bird encourages playtime to reduce stress that can negatively affect workers.

"What you should be doing on off-time is having a lot more dates and a lot less meetings," he said. You can makes dates with your spouse or significant other, children, friends and even with yourself.

Bird defines meetings as focusing on "major decision topics for one or more of the participants, where a date is playtime with no major decision topics involved for anybody."

You should limit personal "meetings" -- about your kids' grades or the health of a parent -- when you're trying to make the most of a break from work. Those kinds of topics can elevate stress.

Live in the moment

Focus on the person you're spending time with or the activity you're engaged in while you're away from work.

"The only way you make a good past and future is to make a great present, and that's by focusing on this point, which is in this string of right nows that make up our life," Bird said.

"Especially when you're on vacation or your off-time, you want to be really focused on the right now. And the focus of right now should be play; it should be dates when you're on off time, so you don't miss the magic of the moment."

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