I'm not ready to travel yet. And it seems silly to use my hard-earned vacation time when I'm just sitting at home. I could just keep working while saving my free days for a blowout trip later this year. But I'm tired, and I really feel like I need a break. What should I do?
This is the easiest question I’ve ever answered: USE YOUR DAMN VACATION TIME. USE IT NOW.
Do you really need more convincing? [Dramatic sigh] OK, let’s do this.
Being in Tokyo or Santorini or wherever that blowout future trip takes you sounds dreamy. It’s been so long that I honestly cannot summon the feeling—one of my favorite feelings in the world—of sitting in a different country, listening to a language I do not speak while eating something delicious and staring at buildings and trees very different from what I’m used to. So I fully understand the temptation not to “waste” days on something less exciting.
And it’s tough to blame you for not feeling ready to travel, even if you’re fully vaccinated. Many countries have yet to reopen their borders to Americans, and the ethics of non-essential travel to places that might have strapped health care systems and lower vaccination rates are complicated. For the first time in a year and a half, I’m flying in a couple of weeks to see a sick family member who lives across the country, but I’m with you on wanting to wait longer to fly internationally for an elective vacation.
And yet! This year has been all but unbearable even for the luckiest of us, and working nonstop is going to destroy you if it hasn’t already. You’ve got to take some time, even if it means sacrificing a more fun trip later. You don’t need a break because you’re weak, you need a break because you’re a human living through a dystopian time in history.
Because your question indicates concern for your fellow humans, I’m going to assume you’re either fully vaccinated or will be soon. (If you’re not, what are you waiting for?) I cannot decide your personal risk tolerance for you, but if you’ve taken your shot(s) and waited two weeks, might I suggest that you have a few more options than sitting at home? Can you rent a cabin in the woods or go camping? Can you take a staycation and spend hours every day walking around Portland, a fantastic city with incredible food trucks where you can order while wearing a mask and then find an isolated spot to sit? Can you house-swap with a friend who lives within driving distance, just to shake it up? Even if none of those things feels doable or appealing, there must be ways you can mix up your home routine—fancy delivery meals! sheet masks! novels you’ve been putting off!—so the days don’t all feel the same. Spending time outside, whether masked or not, has been key to my sanity recently; 10/10, highly recommend.
Vacation time can feel like a precious resource that must be hoarded for the one perfect trip, but I’d encourage you to think of it more as fuel for your tank—you need to fill up every once in a while to be able to keep going. Maybe that means you won’t have enough free days for a blowout trip this year, but you also won’t burn out this year, which is an accomplishment. So please take some time, whether you can escape your home or not. Send me a postcard from the backyard.
I get work messages coming at me from so many directions: Slack, email, Google Docs, Signal, text. I never know where to look first! Is there any way to stop the madness, or at least set up a hierarchy so we can all get on board with the Message Urgency Stages of Importance?
First of all, please tell me you do not have push notifications for all of these platforms. If you do, turn them off right now; I’ll wait.
Now then: Unless you are saving lives, no message on any of these godforsaken apps is a true emergency. Deadlines exist in every industry, and they can be stressful. But a deadline should be an event, not a constant state of mind. If someone needs you urgently, they can call.
But you asked for a hierarchy, and a hierarchy you shall get. Here is OOO’s official ranking of work messaging platforms by importance:
- Phone. No one who’s not a sociopath would call out of the blue unless it’s genuinely important or genuinely exciting. If you work with a sociopath, their calls drop to the bottom of the ranking.
- Signal. This is my one exception to the rule about turning off push notifications. (I will admit I also have them enabled for phone calls and texts.) If a coworker is taking the conversation not just off Slack but all the way to encrypted messaging, you know it’s going to be juicy. And if you can resist the urge to immediately check to see if those messages include gossip, you’re a stronger person than me.
- Text. Again, if your office uses Slack by default, a text means someone has deliberately chosen to remove the conversation from an Official Work Channel. Could be important, or interesting!
- Email. Honestly, I aspire to be one of those people who checks their email twice a day and closes the tab otherwise. (I am extremely not one of those people.) Emails should almost never be urgent; they are for things you can think about and respond to when you’re ready.
- Google Docs. Until two weeks ago, I got an email alert for every edit my endlessly wise and patient editor made to this column. Don’t be like me; turn off email notifications for Google Docs. (Are you sensing a theme here?) Ask whoever is looking at your doc next to let you know when she's ready for you to turn back to it. (Ahem, Maria.) Or, if a deadline looms, she can always hit you up on Signal.