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Management Matters: Taking your phone on vacation

Vol. 79, No. 2 / March - April 2023

Journal Jeffrey SchoenbergerJeffrey R. Schoenberger
Jeffrey R. Schoenberger is a lawyer and senior consultant for Affinity Consulting. Schoenberger specializes in practice management advisory services, including content development, CLE presentations, and member consultations. He is also Affinity’s designated Apple expert. Schoenberger received a B.A. in history from Yale University and J.D. from the University of Virginia.



“Unplug.” We’re often told by friends and coworkers to take a break from digital devices, be it on the weekend or during vacation. I can tell you that a complete “disconnect” doesn’t work for me. If it doesn’t work for you either, you’re not alone. As we approach vacation season, keep these strategies in mind to relax and recharge – without returning to work and finding a flaming mess to clean up.

“Do not disturb” and “VIP”

I know some coworkers send emails for everything under the sun, whether they know you’re on vacation or not, and others are only going to email you during vacation when things are dire. When I’m away from the office, I utilize “Do Not Disturb” and “VIP” features on my devices to manage who has permission to alert me and when they can do so. These features exist on both iPhones and Android phones.

When enabled, the Do Not Disturb feature will silence your phone – no vibration, alerts, or even phone calls. I use this feature when I want to be “fully present” for an activity with family or friends. Do Not Disturb also allows phone calls from select people to “punch through” to ring you, excellent if you always want the babysitter to be able to reach you.

The VIP feature is similar in that you’re limiting who can alert you on vacation. As I mentioned above, I want my iPhone to alert me when certain coworkers send an email. Using VIP prevents you from constantly checking email to see if a particular person has written and from getting “sucked into the email vortex.”

Ubiquitous capture

One of the effects that vacation or downtime from work has on me is that, paradoxically, my mind starts recalling tasks I need to do that the daily hustle and bustle of work previously suppressed. The best way to stop fretting over those blooming recollections is to get them out of my head and into a place where I can deal with them at the appropriate time.

If you have a smartphone, then you have a smart assistant – either Siri or Google. Both can take down reminders, text people, or create notes without forcing you to dive full force into your phone. If all you need is to jot something down, try your smart assistant. If your vacation ends on May 29, say, “Hey Siri, remind me when I get to work on May 29 to schedule the Smith project meeting.” Assuming your personal contact card has a work address, Siri will set a GPS-based reminder that alerts you of the to-do item when you arrive at work on May 29.

Additionally, Drafts is a popular text utility from Agile Tortoise. If you add the Drafts widget to your iPhone’s lock screen, you can wake your iPhone’s screen, slide right, and enter either a typed or dictated message. No need to dive into your iPhone’s home screen and its myriad  distracting app options. Once you’ve completed typing or dictating your message, while still in Drafts, you can add that text to the Reminders app, send it as a text or email, and do a host of other functions with it. Drafts also has an Apple Watch app so you can dictate that note and deal with it later without ever touching your phone. Android has a “widget” concept and I expect a Drafts analogue exists for the platform.

Know yourself

Fundamentally, I don’t believe that a restful and relaxing vacation means abandoning technology or completely disconnecting from the workplace. If it does for you, marvelous. Go forth and be happy. For me though, I like to know if something urgently needs my attention and allow trusted coworkers to reach me. And, when I get peace and quiet and ideas come to me, it’s easier to capture them for later reflection than hope I remember at the end of my vacation. If that’s you too, don’t feel like you’re “cheating vacation” by occasionally thinking of work. It’s your time off – do what makes you happy.