Why Are You All Still Vacationing Wrong?

Don't Email Me. Don't Call Me. I'm on Vacation. And You Should Be, Too, Dammit

By Published on .

Credit: Kelsey Dake for Ad Age

I went on vacation last week.

This you might have known if you tried to email me and received my autoreply.

It states:

I'm on vacation and am not replying to work email. Due to the overwhelming volume of email received, any email sent during this time will be deleted, never to be read.

If you check work emails while on vacation -- or holiday, as some people call it -- then bully for you. But I do think you're vacationing wrong. And your spouse and/or children likely agree.

This actually isn't at all different from a regular work week for those of you who insist on sending pitches that A) are badly written; B) are irrelevant; C) are addressed to Kevin; D) are addressed to Adweek; E) are addressed to Kevin at Adweek; F) use "concept" or "hero" as a verb; G) randomly insert the phrases "big data" or "programmatic buying" and then make it clear that you have no idea what either of those mean; H) include an infographic based on "social data"; I) posit that millennials are unique, special flowers who shop/work/play like mystical unicorns; J) offer an unsolicited "expert source" on Caitlyn Jenner, ISIS, the Apple Watch, GenZ or any of a million other topics.

If your email is extremely important and does not meet any of the above criteria, please resend it upon my return.

Have a nice day!

OK. So maybe the second and third paragraphs I made up for the purposes of this column. But the rest of it is real.

I've never gotten much of a reaction, which leads me to the reasonable suspicion that people don't really read these things. What reaction I have received has been along the lines of: "You can't do that."
To which I ask: Why not? This is an honest out-of-office email. (Or, if you want to put a spin specific to the marketing world, let's call it authentic, possibly even artisanal.)

I'm not reading these emails while I'm on vacation. And I'm not having my vacation ruined by thinking about replying to 20,000 emails when I return to the office. And I'm not having my entire first day back in the office derailed by trying to sift through 20,000 emails.

This might strike some as horribly selfish, but I'd argue the inverse of what I'm doing is based on a very unhealthy mix of paranoia (not entirely unfounded in a world of layoffs) and narcissism.

From helicopter parents to helicopter co-workers, we obsess, we check in, we touch base -- and we pester, annoy and nag. But all of this is partially a result of this notion that the world can't function without us.

Newsflash: It can.

In all the years of ignoring emails sent to me while on vacation, my job has never once suffered. And Ad Age has never once suffered. It's an 85-year-old company. It managed perfectly fine without me for 71 years. I think it can survive a week without me -- especially since all my coworkers are actually more competent than I am. (This is also where the paranoia comes in: They'll realize they can live without me!) [EDITOR'S NOTE: We can't.]

And unless you are literally a one-person shop, the same probably applies to you.

With all the obsessing over millennials in the marketing and media industries, you'd think we'd be learning something from them about work-life balance. But we're not. If anything, we're having an exchange of worst practices. We learn from them how to use technology to always keep us in touch. And then they learn from us to use that technology to always keep in touch with work and make ourselves miserable. It's lose-lose.

Some of you will be in Cannes in a week or so. Sure, it's a work trip. But how many of you will be spending the bulk of your time with a phone glued to your face, rather than taking in all those beautiful sights: the ocean, the yachts, the blue sky, that orange guy in the bright-yellow Speedo?

How many of you will have carved out a little extra time on either end of the trip to experience the region when it's not being overrun by the sort of people who say things like "We're heroing the process"? (I don't even know how you'd say that in French, but I can tell you the French Academy wouldn't stand for that sort of abuse of its language.)

I'd like to see my out-of-office reply as a win-win: a dash of millennial life-balance with a heaping helping of GenX "get over yourself already." Or maybe after all these years, I've actually internalized the marketing messages that I do deserve a break today, that I can get away from it all and somehow find a little piece of nirvana in this crazy world. Would it kill you, marketing land, to believe some of the messages you've been foisting on consumers for decades? No. It would not. Indeed, it might make you a better marketer.

Because constantly worrying about multiple problems -- 24 hours a day, 7 days a week -- is probably the worst way to think about solutions for anything.

You need time in every day to spend on yourself -- whether it's relaxation, enlightenment, volunteering or watching reality TV. And, at least once a year, an entire week or two to check out. Completely. (Or as completely as possible.)

Unless I'm the one trying to contact you. Then you'd better damn well answer your email.

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