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Credit: Vivian CTWM

A curious thing happened this Christmas holiday – I unplugged my work for the first time in my career. I recently switched jobs and while I am already knee-deep in the work that I am doing, I made a vow even before I started that I was going to completely unplug this Christmas and enjoy the time with my little kids.

On the Friday before Christmas week (12/19), I told my team and my boss that I wasn’t planning to check email throughout the week. I told them that if there was an emergency of any kind, that they could call me but otherwise, don’t expect to hear from me. Even before this, I told my new team that my working style is such that I will never disturb them during their time off (vacations or weekends) unless I REALLY need something. I told them that while I do check my emails on the weekends, I only check once a day at the very end of the day (the truth is that I do check more frequently, but I usually do not respond until Sunday night or Monday morning). I am a firm believer that the tone of a work culture comes down from the top, and I know that if I check and respond to email on Saturdays and Sundays, my team will feel compelled to do so as well.

For the most part, I kept my promise to myself and to my kids this past holiday week. I left my work device plugged in and turned on, but didn’t check it except for once – on Tuesday night, I remembered that I had forgotten to wish everyone a true “Happy Holidays” before leaving the office on the Friday prior, so I sent them all a quick email wishing them well. Otherwise, the device sat on the credenza in front of the television, collecting dust for the entire week.

The first few days were weird – I felt like I wanted to pick up my device everyone once in a while, but I resisted the urge. I was constantly reasoning with myself:

Even if there is email, no one is expecting a response…

and

They’ll call me if they need me…

When I finally picked up the device on Tuesday night to send holiday wishes to my team, there WERE email in my mailbox but none of them were worth taking time away from my family to respond.

So, this holiday, my (personal) phone was used only for doing the things that most people use it for – taking pictures, posting status updates to Facebook, texting family members to find out where they are in the massive Costco crowd, and for calling the local take-out joints. Never once was my (work) phone used for work-related emails except to send a brief sentiment of good wishes. And it felt great to finally be unplugged.

What all of this brought light to is two things:

1. My family is indeed as crazy as I thought they were. What is it about holidays that brings out the Crazy in everyone???!

2. Re-entry into the “REAL WORLD” after being unplugged for a week really sucks. Mentally, it took me forever to get back into the mindset. Physically, my routine was thrown off. Intellectually, going through the emails that I did receive and trying to get re-integrated is like torture.

Despite the two items above, my time with my kids was totally worth it…

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