How many hours do you work on vacation?
You don't. But then what about the e-mails? How do you deal with clients? Are you supposed to just close down your business?
This episode shows you how we deal with vacations at Psychotactics. We've been going on our “three-month” vacations since 2004 and have had to work out a few “tricks”.
And you can use them too—and ensure a splendid vacation, instead of just “work by the beach”.
In this episode Sean talks about
Part 1: The Secret to handling email on holiday
Part 2: How to handle social media while on holiday
Part 3: How to deal with clients if there is an emergency
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Hi, this is Sean D'Souza from psychotactics.com, and you're listening to the Three Month Vacation Podcast.
This podcast isn't some magic trick about working less. Instead, it's about how to really enjoy your work and enjoy your vacation time.
This is the Three Month Vacation. I'm Sean D'Souza. In February of 2005 I had no intention of checking any email. That was because we were on our vacation in the South Island. Now New Zealand is a set of islands, as you probably know. There's the North Island where we live, and the South Island. In the South Island, it's truly breathtaking. It's got rivers and mountains and glaciers, and there we were at Fox Glacier. Now Fox is an amazing glacier because it's in close proximity to both the rainforest and the ocean. Now that's pretty rare with a glacier, but the ice flow on Fox Glacier is also amazing. It changes as much as three meters a day, so it's a pretty crazy place to be, and there we were walking on the glacier.
When we had done that walk, we came down to check email. I didn't check email for several days, and there was this little hut right next to the glacier. Yes, there's email everywhere these days. I switched on the computer expecting nothing much, and there it was: an email telling me that our entire membership site was non-existent.
This is the power of email. It can take a perfectly good day and make it an absolutely rotten one. In today's episode we're going to cover this topic of no work on vacation. We're going to look at email and how to deal with email in vacation mode, and then how you deal with social media, and finally what do you do about clients while you're on vacation. Let's start off with the first thing, which is dealing with email.
Part 1: Dealing With Email
Imagine you're having a great day and then you get a phone call. It says a child is in hospital, your child is in hospital. It doesn't matter how happy you were at that moment. Your mood changes. Immediately you want to take control. Immediately you want to be with that child. Immediately you're transported right back to that situation that in a way you can't control, but need to be there. Now email isn't quite the same situation, but it still has that power. It still has that power to pull you back into that work mode. You're sitting somewhere having a margarita enjoying the sunset, and then you read email and your mood changes. You're back in work land.
It can be a good email, a bad email, a frustrating email. It doesn't matter. You're no longer where you are and you're some other place where you shouldn't be, which is back at work. How do we deal with this at Psychotactics? Remember that incident at Fox Glacier where I read that email? It made me feel terrible. I'd just gone up the glacier. I was in this absolutely stunning mood. Then I had to read that email. The point is that I couldn't do anything. That website was down. They had erased it down to zero pixels. Then they did a backup of that website, the one that they erased, so we had nothing. Then clients started writing in telling us that the website was down. Then I had to write back to clients. I spent several hours at that little hut responding to email.
How do you deal with such a situation? How do you control this so that you're not completely dealing with work the whole time that you're away? Because you need to leave email at home when you go on vacation. Here's how we do it. For one, we don't check the primary email. We get someone else to check email while we're away. Here's how it works. When that someone else is checking email, they're getting rid of all the stuff that really takes up a lot of your time, so any spam, any offers, all that just goes in the trash straight away. Now on a day to day basis I probably read it because it's valuable and I've subscribed to it and I want to read it, but while I'm on vacation I don't need that email. All of that goes trashed right away.
What else is left? There are emails where someone has not got a download or someone needs some kind of help. Usually there are canned messages, so there are messages where they can get their downloads or things that come up on a frequent basis. It's very rare that you're going to get new episode all the time. Most of the emails that you're responding to, they are old matters, and if you have canned messages, and I use Text Expander on my computer, and those canned messages go out and the matter is resolved.
This leaves us with the urgent email, the email that simply cannot be ignored. There are two ways to handle this. The first way is to create an email address like, say, firstname.lastname@example.org. Then you instruct that person to send email there only if it's absolutely critical, that it cannot be put off in any way. If it's super critical, than they should have your phone number and they should get in touch with you. Then again, let's assume you want to keep it just to email. You have the special box with a special email address, and you notice nothing is showing up day after day, because after all, the box is for urgent stuff and there isn't any urgent stuff.
You don't give up. You just go and you check that email repeatedly several times a day. Then you realize there's nothing there after all. You wait for the phone call, and the phone call never comes. We have been going on vacation since 2004. We work for three months, then we take a month off. In that month we almost never have to deal with email because all of it is taken care. The stuff that needs to be attend later is put in a box. When we get back, we deal with that. And so you remain email-free.
But email isn't the only way that people can get in touch with you these days. There's also this menace called social media. Let's talk about social media, shall we?
Part 2: Social Media
In May 2015, after doing an infoproducts workshop in Washington D.C. and speaking at an event in Denver, we headed off to Sardinia. We moved from the south of Sardinia right up to the north. There was this wonderful hotel called Hotel Cuncheddi, or Cala Cuncheddi. I had 500 megabytes of data, so guess what? I was going to use it. Except there was a small problem. This data was connected to a satellite. You only got 500 megabytes, and if you exceeded those 500 megabytes you had to buy more data. I went outside and I took some pictures of the beach. It's a glorious beach and beautiful views, and I uploaded three pictures.
Instantly, my 500 megabytes was exhausted. I couldn't surf the internet anymore. Now if you know anything about the internet and technology, that's impossible. Anything uploaded to Facebook is probably going to be a few megabytes, maybe four or five megabytes. You can't use up 500 megabytes in about 30 seconds, but there was a glitch in their system. Because of the glitch, I couldn't access the internet, I couldn't check Facebook, I couldn't go on any kind of social media platforms. And so I didn't.
I found the beach. I found that I didn't have to look at my phone, I didn't have to look at the iPad. I did what my grandfather and my father did. I actually went out and enjoyed myself. Just because you're not checking email doesn't mean that you're not connected. When you get into this whole deal of Facebook or Twitter or any social media stuff, you get involved in something. Maybe someone is going to talk about global warming or gun control, or something about some politician or something, and immediately it yanks you back into this frustrating situation where you're either for it or against it and your mood is spoiled. You're not looking at the beach. You're looking down at your phone. You're looking down at your iPad.
It might not be work, but it still takes you away from where you should be. It still messages to ruin your mood. It still creates that state change. That's not usually for the better. I hope that I'm going to take Cala Cuncheddi with me wherever I go, where I can upload three photos and then I'm done and then I can't access the internet anymore. It is a price to pay because we're so tied to our phones and our iPads and our mobile devices. Yet it's so critical that we step away from it, because somehow it pulls us back.
Remember that clients can still contact you. They can send messages to you through Facebook Messenger or through some method like Skype. Immediately you're yanked back. I know that asking someone to get rid of their internet while they're on vacation is like asking them to get rid of one of their arms. But I can tell you from experience that it's good. I say this with a lot of reluctance because I want to hold that phone, I want to take the pictures, I want to upload them, I want to do stuff like that. The moments that I've not done it, the days I've not done it, they have been truly splendid. So no email, and definitely no social media. That takes us to the third part, which is how are we going to deal with clients? What if there's an emergency?
Part 3: How Are We Going To Deal With Clients?
I remember the year that Renuka and I got married. We told clients that we were going on our honeymoon. It was amazing, because everyone said, “We wish you all the best.” One thing that they made sure was not to contact us in any way. How about making it a honeymoon every single time? How about staying away from clients while you're on vacation? This is what your parents did. This is what our grandparents did. They went on vacation. No matter how rich they were or poor they were, they just left their work and in the summer they would go to some place like a village or their hometown, and they were completely cut off from work. We live in a different world and we think we should be connected to our clients all the time.
Really this depends on you. It depends on how you set up things. When we have courses we make sure that the courses end a week before we go on vacation, so we can tidy up everything and then we can go on our vacation. In fact, before going on vacation we pack our bags three or four days before we have to get on the flight, and then the vacation starts while we're still in Auckland. Then we leave.
No one contacts us about the courses. No one contacts about products that they can't download or can't get, because someone else is handling that. Only while we're away someone else is handling that. Then it's the third thing which is the membership site. I go into 5000bc.com, that's our membership site, and I go there, I don't know, 15, 20 times a day. If you ask a question, I respond with just the answer or sometimes I'll write a series of answers, do an audio or video even just to give you the answer. Our clients, they get used to this level of response, but the moment I'm away they know I'm away.
If I were to pop in, and it's not like I haven't tried, they instantly tell me I should leave. That I need to go and enjoy my vacation, because that's what vacation is all about. What you're doing is you're actually setting up the client's so that they tell you to go away. That's what our members do. If I try to check email or if I try to get back into the membership site, they tell me to go away. What we've done from the very start is inculcated in our clients the fact that our vacation is sacred, so they treat it like that. They treat it like as if we're going on honeymoon. Every time we try to get back, we get a rap on the knuckles and we're back in Margarita land.
We've made a big deal about the vacation, and I think that's what you need to do as well. You need to tell clients that while you're away you can't be reached. Of course they don't reach you, but are there any exceptions to this rule? Of course there are exceptions to the rule. The point is that you are checking email. I'm checking email 270 days in a year. When I'm at work, I'm checking email, I'm go to the forums, I'm go to the membership site, I'm going on social media. It's very hard to just slow down and go okay, I'm not doing this anymore. I'll try, but it's nice to get booted out. It's nice to go and enjoy yourself and have a good time.
Even when I got that email at Fox Glacier it wasn't like I could do anything. I couldn't bring the website back up again. In fact, the website was down for 17 days. When we got back, we apologized to our clients. Then we got back to work. We got to building 5000bc. That's where it is today. Many of those clients, they're still with us today after all of these years. Vacation time should be sacred, should be a place every go to where you can re-energize and relax and learn stuff about cultures, and then come back and get back to work with full gusto.
That brings us to the end of this podcast. Three things that we covered. The first thing is if you need to have email attack you, then create a separate email address and only the urgent stuff goes there. Even better, just don't get any email. If there's something utterly urgent, they'll then call you. Otherwise, get someone to deal with the email with canned messages. You want to stay off Facebook and Twitter and any kind of social media. You want to put yourself in a situation where you're just disconnected. Finally, you want to train your clients right at the start. You want to let them know that vacation is a time when I'm going to be away. You will be surprised at how they respect this almost like it's a honeymoon, every single time you go on vacation.
It's 5:59 AM and it's time for that walk and to listen to some audiobooks and podcasts. I hope you've been enjoying this podcast. If you have been enjoying it, please go and leave a review on iTunes. If you haven't already subscribed, it's that big purple button. All you have to do is go and click it, and you can get all the downloads. I'm on Twitter @seandsouza and on Facebook at Sean D'Souza. You can email me at email@example.com. No, just kidding. I'm at work right now. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This episode, for instance, was a response to someone asking how do we deal with work on vacation. The answer is you don't. We've got to cartooning course starting off shortly. I don't know when you're going to listen to this podcast, but if you don't get the cartooning course this year, then it's all the way into 2016, so the cartooning course, which is that www.psychotactics.com/davinci. At the end of the year in November, we're going to have the first 50 words course. This is a course that shows you how to start a podcast or webinars or write stuff in your articles. The first 50 words it drives us absolutely bonkers, and the first 50 words course shows you that. You'll never have to struggle with the first 50 words ever again. You'll become an amazing storyteller. That's the first 50 words course. You have to be on the Psychotactics newsletter list so that you can get the notification when the course is due. That's pretty much it for this episode. Thank you for tuning in. Bye for now.