Want to escape the office but don’t want to blow through your vacation days?
Not to worry. All you need is some courage and a bit of flexibility, and you too
will soon be sipping margaritas in the shade. Get started by packing up your iPad and smartphone. Now, follow these instructions and off you go:
Tip # 1 -You will need to appear active on email or fellow
workers will smell a rat. The ‘out of office’ assistant is a definite ‘no-no.’
Instead, set filters that identify things you really need to see, and send
those to a ‘high-priority’ mail box. Let everything else wallow. When you get
back to the office, feign an email meltdown. Tell everyone that you had an
email problem and that all incoming messages from the last few days have gone
missing, so that if there is something important, please re-send.
Tip #2 – Next, pre-write some messages that won’t
come back to bit you later on. Some examples include asking for feedback on
some new ideas you are working on, pointing out some new article you found, or
congratulating people for a job well-done. Then post the messages to go out during
hours you should be online. Outlook has
a feature called “Delay Delivery” and Gmail has a plugin called Boomerang. Both will do the trick.
For dealing with the responses, refer back to tip #1.
Tip #3 – Appear available. In today’s age of hyper-connectivity, nobody
will be fooled by the email trick alone. No, today, people expect you to be available
24/7. No problem. If you use enterprise
instant messengers like Microsoft Lync, your online status can be updated
directly from your Outlook calendar. Create some “meetings” so that you will appear
offline periodically. Then, from the smartphone or iPad, use the Lync
application to periodically change your status to “do not disturb” and “appear
away.” (A steady “busy” status will appear
suspicious.) Sure, it takes a bit of
effort, but isn’t it worth it? If you
are really audacious, change your location to something unexpected like “heads
down on a big project.” People will tend to leave you alone.
Tip #4 – Tweet like there’s no tomorrow. Use tools like Hootsuite to schedule tweets with
important-sounding statements, like “just had a great epiphany–isn’t
creativity awesome?” Better yet, load up on some great sounding quotes from
dead statesmen; Jefferson and Churchill are always good. Tweeting these out gives
the impression you are working on something important. Make sure some of these tweets are sent out at
crazy hours, so it looks like you never stop working. With the basic Hootsuite paid account, you
can schedule up to 50 tweets; that should be plenty to get you through a long
Tip #5 – Eliminate annoying phone calls. With today’s
VOIP phone systems, how you deal with incoming calls is limited only by your
imagination…and your technical acumen. You can have calls rerouted during meetings and
automated responses set up, but that’s a lot of work…and that is just what you
are trying to avoid. Instead, use the same strategy employed for email. Filter.
You will only want to deal with the most urgent calls, and only those from the people
who actually pay your salary. For everything else, route voice mail messages to
email. Then, when your Inbox melts down
(see tip #1), all these messages will disappear as well. Problem solved.
So far so good. These tips should be enough for the average worker,
but if you are an executive or if you want to join the ranks of the pros, you need
tips #6 and #7. Successful execution of these
will put you in a league of your own. Not only will your absence not be
questioned, but you may actually parlay your offsite, non-stop dedication into
some “well-earned” time off to prevent burnout.
Tip #6 – Documents are the fuel that drive most
organizations today. At any given time, many time-sensitive contracts,
proposals, and specs are floating around. And some of these might need your
immediate attention. But following
documents is a huge time drag. However,
if you are one of the 80% of organizations that uses Microsoft SharePoint, you
might be in business. My company, harmon.ie*, recently
released an iPad app that lets
you follow document libraries on your iPad, so you get real-time updates when a
document you are tracking has been changed or edited. You can edit the document
and respond immediately, making it look like you are plugged in. Ignore everything else. Smooth move.
Tip #7 – Many jobs now entail following business activities,
like customer requests, product updates, or order handling in real-time. And it would be a shame to lose that big deal because you missed an important task.
Not to worry. Enterprise applications
like Salesforce, now provide iPad
applications that allow you to track important events without being inundated
with the kind of messages you are trying to avoid. If your application doesn’t have this kind
of support, many provide RSS feeds of important events that can be directed to
email. Just be sure to filter these into the “important message” folder (see
That’s all it takes. Now,
go make the reservations, start packing the suntan lotion and bathing suit, and
get ready for those margaritas. Oh, and
by the way, you can employ these tips even without the surreptitious absences. You
might even find your regular work days less stressful.
Let me know in the comments if you have any other tips for getting
away. You can also mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet me at @dlavenda.
–Author David Lavenda is a high tech marketing and product strategy executive who also does academic research on information overload in organizations. He is an international scholar for the Society for the History of Technology.
*The author is an executive at harmon.ie.
The views expressed here represent the author’s alone.
[Image: Flickr user Anna Borska]