I just got back from four days away in a little island house. A getaway with dear friends and their kiddos. It sounds delightful, right?

But here’s the thing: I was not looking forward to the break. The timing was not perfect. I had just returned from a week away facilitating at a conference. I felt I needed to plug back in right away and catch up on major client projects.

In spite of my anxiety, I headed out of town. And once I got to the island, it was clear: I needed this getaway. The time in the sunny beach house with loved ones was going to be downright beautiful.

We took walks on the beach and spent hours cooking (leaving the kitchen a gorgeous mess). We read books aloud. People reminisced over childhood days, told jokes and shared stories. We kayaked, napped, and sat in the sun.

A true getaway holds a gift.

You connect with the people you love, you connect with your sense of wonder. You remember what sun on relaxed shoulders feels like. It is a necessity.

Before I could embrace this trip and benefit from it, I needed to take a few simple actions.

Here’s how you can set yourself up for a stress-free getaway:

Give yourself permission to take time off

This is the hardest step for me. We all need breaks. We crave time outside of the workday to connect with those we love. Those times away give us the space to think, let go, and recalibrate. Time away helps us be better friends, family, lovers, and workers when we return. You deserve to rest and recharge your energy. Make sure to tell yourself, “I deserve this!”

Decide to set the work aside

It is difficult to put our work down and just “be.” Make an active decision not to work during your break—and do it before you leave. That way, if your to-do list starts nagging during your getaway, it will be easier to remind yourself, gently, that you are not working during this time.

Write down what you need to do when you return

If you’re worried about surprises that might be lurking on your desk when you get home, here’s my solution. A few days ahead of your getaway, make a short, simple to-do list. Write actionable tasks on your list. Check your calendar to make sure you are not missing anything. Reschedule things if you need to. Then leave the list for when you return.

Put the technology away

It’s hard for us to switch off when our devices are switched on! Those smart phones, tablets, and laptops are tied to our work, and they can drain our energy. Make a commitment to yourself to not check your email or your phone messages while you are away. (As an alternative, check in once daily, and then put the devices away.) Being “disconnected” may feel uncomfortable at first, but you will recharge your energy and your spirit better this way. You will find yourself less stressed and more present.

Identify your wants & needs

Before my getaway, I decided how I wanted to be with people during our time together. I thought about the kinds of interactions I wanted to have, how much time I wished to spend with others, and how much alone time I needed. I wrote down my intentions and kept the paper with me.

Start by asking yourself: “How do I want to interact with people? How do I want people to feel when they interact with me?  How do I want to feel when I am with people?” Jot down your answers, so you can refer to them if you need to.

Voice your intentions

What do you hope to gain from your time off? If your getaway involves other people—friends, family, spouse, or partner—let them know your intentions in advance. Talk openly about what you want and hope to have happen. When you set your intentions in community, it helps everyone support you.

Work, the grind, the important tasks, and the to-do lists will always be here.
The older I get the more clear that message is. We all need breaks!

Take some time off, even just for an afternoon.

You will do better work when you return. I promise.

Note:

If you are planning a little time away with family, please pay special attention to the last two points on my list: “Identify your needs” and “Voice your intentions.”  It is important to talk about your intentions with the people who can listen well and support you. This might not be everyone in your family (or even among your friends). If you worry that the people going on the trip might not support you, share your intentions with a supportive friend before you go. You could even agree to check in with that friend during the trip if you need the extra support.