Sunday, August 23, 2015

You've Got (Too Much) Mail

Our family vacation ended yesterday. 

As we've done for many years, we sailed on an antique windjammer up in Maine for four days. Three of the four, we were completely shrouded in fog. On the last morning, the fog finally broke ... and it rained. 

Not our best trip, weatherwise. 

But, we saw four bald eagles, three harbor seals, and a pod of porpoises. We ate way too much (definitely held our own at the "all-you-can-eat" lobster bake). We met such nice and interesting people. We played with the captain's adorable four-year-old son. I got through ten back issues of The New Yorker. And, my daughter made a dent (a small dent, but a dent nonetheless) in her summer homework.

Last night, we came home to a happy, if slightly chubby, puppy. (He seems to have finagled his way into some extra treats from our housesitter while we were sailing.) 

I also came home to 187 work emails. 

Not spam emails. Not notes from friends emails. Not opt-in subscription newsletter or retail coupon or airline update emails.

Work emails. 187 work emails. Each more urgent than the last.

"Ah ha," you may be thinking, "She forgot to tell her clients and colleagues that she was on vacation." No, they knew. In fact, most of the emails began with "I hope you're enjoying your time off."

(Um ... I might enjoy it more if you weren't sending me emails.)

It's frustrating. You look forward to a family vacation (well deserved and not nearly as long as it should be). You work twice as hard as usual so you can actually go. Then you come home to twice as much work as usual waiting. So basically, in addition to unpacking and laundry and grocery shopping, you spend your last day of freedom trying to catch up so your head doesn't explode on your first day back.

Of course, this dismal situation isn't unique to me. My husband is catching up on his emails even as I type. And, my daughter still has two and a half chapters of bio, six more chapters of civics, three papers and Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. (In her defense, she tried reading that last one on the boat. She made it through page eight before she — literally — fell asleep.)

Back to my emails, though. I'm sorting through estimates from printers, feedback from clients, requests for proposals, background information to write copy, artwork to approve, minutes from board meetings, and an invitation to speak at a conference in October.

And I thought my head was in a fog on the boat!

Some of the emails are important. Some, not so much. Many could just as easily have waited until I got back officially. And, then there are the exponential emails on a single topic because everyone hits "Reply all." Too often, emails are sent after hours, even though nothing can really be done about them until the next business day. It feels like people are playing a game of electronic "hot potato." You see, once it's all in an email in my in-box, it's off their plate. Or their desk. Or maybe just their mind.

I'm glad someone can relax.

So, should we just forgo the family getaways? Give up on the mini breaks?

Is all the work and worry before, after and — in our almost always wired world — during a vacation really worth it?

You better believe it!

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of my book  Lovin' the Alien at


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