You’ve worked up to this. You’ve put in long hours and adapted to make work- work. You’ve kept your cool during all of those conference calls you took from your closet and sacrificed your ocular health from an overload of endless video calls. Your bum has started to take on the shape of a lumpy baked potato from too many hours in that expensive chair you ordered last year. You need to get out. You’ve saved, planned and earned these endless “do whatever you want “days- especially this year.

Your plants are watered, your bags are packed and the car is ready to roll. It’s so close you can feel it. So why the heck are you still making plans to check email, return texts and wiggle in conference calls while the kids are napping? That’s not vacation. It’s just you working from a different location.

I used to do it too. One year, my family and I were an hour down the road when I realized I’d left my Mac charger at home. (No one was happy when we made that U-turn.) In 2010, I made a different choice. I went rogue and committed to unplug 100% for the ENTIRE week of our family vacation. Admittedly, I was nervous. I was absolutely certain my clients would wither without me. My team was confused when I told them about my radical plan to actually enjoy the vacation I’d earned. I could tell by the way the number “11” formed between their eyebrows as we talked about it. A few of them asked, “But you’ll be checking email and texts, right?” Um- nope. Not this week friends.

I activated my OOO with this bold message: “I’m 100% unplugged and enjoying my vacation until (date). I have zero access to email, texts and voice mail. If you leave me a message, I’ll return your call on (date). Please contact my colleague __________ if you have an urgent issue.”

Without a lick of guilt, I turned off my phone, grabbed my favorite CDs, a fiction book I had been dying to read, packed the car, grabbed the family and off we went! I didn’t know quite what to do with myself the first two days. I was detoxing from the influx of messages my brain had been fielding. It was a little scary. By the third day, everything started to come together. I began sleeping soundly through the night. I felt alive and excited when I woke up. I didn’t have that nagging little headache. My vision improved. I could focus. I heard every single word my son said as we floated through our unstructured days. I watched my husband cook breakfast and I felt grateful. We played on the beach, explored the island on bikes and watched dolphins. We hung out, talked and laughed together. We made memories and we had fun! I enjoyed every minute of the time off that I’d worked so hard to earn. I realized how I’d been cheating myself and my family on every other “vacation” we’d taken before.

A week later, I went back to work sun kissed, refreshed and chocked full of precious memories. The world was still spinning. No one had withered. I’d blazed a new trail and shown my team that work-free vacations were not only possible, they were smart and absolutely necessary. My team was inspired. They made plans to do the same.

We formed a buddy system so everyone could enjoy the vacation time they earned without the worry of “work emergencies”. With a little planning, we were able to give the person on vacation air cover. It became something we were happy to do. Our work free vacations made our team happier, stronger, healthier and more productive. It became a tradition and we held each other accountable. We became beacons of hope and sources of inspiration for our company and our clients. The decision we made was mindful and it was kind.

I’ve made that same commitment every year since then and I’ve kept it. I count down the days like a kid. I look forward to our vacations now. My family does too. I let my clients and partners know that I will be unreachable and I thank them for holding down the fort while I’m away. When my OOO goes on, I check out of work in all ways. I disconnect from the technology- 100%.

It’s been a long, strange year. Chances are good that you need a vacation more than ever. So, now it’s your turn. However and wherever you plan to spend your well earned vacation this year, choose yourself and savor every, single, precious minute. Make the choice to unplug and commit to ZERO work. (That means none. Seriously.) Find a buddy on your team. Let your clients know you’ll be totally off the grid and tell them why. Flip on your OOO message then, get excited! Pack your bags, grab your people then let the days unfold however they will. Enjoy the time you’ve earned without a lick of guilt. Let me know what happens.