This morning, I’ve been ignoring my children fighting1 and the sound of a dripping faucet2 by reading old Fire Joe Morgan posts. Man, I need vacation. Kinda like the vacation I just got back from a couple of weeks ago. Which, as I write this, might not have actually been as effective as I hoped.

Even so, let’s press on with the top, um, X tips for how to vacation when your job is conducted entirely online:

  1. Try to finish everything other people need from you before you leave.

    So, this is where you might as well give up before you even start. What I should have actually said: “Pretend you’ve finished everything you needed to do before you leave”. This year I left tons of people waiting, but I did pretend that I’d finished the functional specification for a new feature.3 As a result, I spent only an inordinate amount of time thinking about work after I left. The more time you think about your work, the less likely you are to benefit from not thinking about your work. You see, vacations are to work as sleep is to, uh, work. Brains need retooling too.

    Community managers (and moderators for that matter) probably should tell their colleagues about an absence. We should not worry about resolving outstanding community problems, however. For one thing, most every issue will be resolved whether you are actively working on it or not. For another, you are more likely to block community action as enable it in the final days of preparation. Finally, it’s better to let people notice you are gone than express apathy (or worse, joy) that you are leaving. While we are on the topic…

  2. Leave your house.

    I can’t stress enough that if you don’t walk away from the desk, you aren’t really on vacation. Ideally, you’ll travel far enough away from your cocoon that you are a bit uncomfortable. To give you an idea of how much I believe in this principle, I actually left the Burbank bubble. You see, if you don’t separate yourself physically, you won’t actually be able to mentally separate yourself from work. You could probably flip a coin at every intersection and travel randomly (my father actually used to do this after church to find new lunch places) and be better off than sitting at home. “Staycation” is a synonym for “working”. Which reminds me…

  3. Don’t open your laptop.

    Just about every manager does a little routine whenever they take more than a few hours away from the office. “Hey guys,” they’ll say, “I’m going to be out for a while, but if you need me for anything, I’ll be reading my email. Actually, here’s my phone number, the address of where I’ll be, and I’ve rented a sat phone. Use any of them if you want my input or even if you just feel like chatting.” If it weren’t a sign of weakness, some managers would confess that they get all meaning out of life from working. If you log into the community you are managing while away, it’s exactly the same effect.

    I’d be hypocritical to tell you to not bring your laptop, because I brought mine with me. What I didn’t do, however, was use it. Well, I did use it to charge my phone. Speaking of which…

  4. Don’t abuse your phone privilege.

    Let’s get real: I’m going to tell you to leave your phone in airplane mode and you are going to pretend that you need it to get directions to the cheese factory tour when really you are sneaking peaks at your email notifications. Just like the dance between a preteen and their parents, we both know that such rules will be bent like so many pretzels. So let’s just be clear, if your coworkers (or spouse) figure out that you were working instead of vacationing, they have my permission to mock you for failing at not working. Alternatively, imagine what how Iron Eyes Cody would feel if he found out you were corrupting the American institution of a family road trip:

    Keep America Vacationing

    You will be this sad too, unless you…

  5. Lower your expectations.

    Shortly after we returned from our vacation with my family, Joy passed around this article on Facebook: Vacation or Trip? A Helpful Guide for Parents. It was painfully funny to her, but I kinda thought the guidance was obvious. Vacations are about escape, so if your goal is to escape the life of a mother for a few weeks, you shouldn’t bother taking your children. Vacations (sorry, “trips”) are best when they fail in ways that will be hilarious to future you. Driving though rush-hour traffic in a car that’s engulfed in white smoke like some sort of cartoon cloud isn’t a laughing matter until you’ve finished suffering the consequences and started telling the story as if it happened to someone else. Very few events are as life changing as they seem in the moment, so it’s best to treat vacations like those chapters in Moby Dick that describe the whaling industry: diversions from the main plot.

    Vacations have greatest impact when they break up the flow of life, even if they aren’t pleasant. To be clear, I had a great trip since I spent a good deal of it fishing at places like:

    Upper Hazard

    There was no cellphone coverage, so I missed a lot of events online. That can be discouraging if you don’t…

  6. Pretend that everything that happened while you were gone was unimportant.

    Sure there are going to be things that you are idly curious about and it’s ok to ask around. But don’t feel the slightest obligation to “catch up” or you risk losing all the benefit you might have gained from going in the first place. Seriously, it might feel like the world falls apart when you aren’t looking, but it’s just not true. Give yourself a break.

So, in summary, I can’t wait for my anniversary trip next month. Or rather: vacation.


Footnotes:

  1. Mostly sleep, but also each other.

  2. The shower fixtures are one of the few things we did not tear out during our remodel this spring because I’d replaced them seven years ago when we moved in. But it turns out that a critical peice is made of pot metal for some reason which has meant I’ve had to replace it with aluminum foil. Oddly, that’s not what caused the leak. In the meantime, I turned off the water to the house after we all had showered so that we don’t feel guilty about our role in California’s drought. This evening’s entertainment will either be teaching our potty-training toddlers how to bucket flush or locking myself into the bathroom until I fix the leak or break down in tears trying.

    If this footnote confuses you, read the rest of the first sentence. If that still doesn’t help, take a moment to watch David Eckstein, Attorney at Law, which won’t make anything more clear as it turns out.

  3. As an added bonus, the feature was ready for my review when I got back.