Ed. notes: The column was written in collaboration with my friend, attorney Niloy Ray.
Summer vacation season may be over, but the holidays will be here soon enough. Many in-house lawyers are able to completely unplug — able to leave their computers and work phones at home (lucky!). Others, however, may still need to bring their laptops or at the very least, their phones. These tips are for you.
Trust The Away Message
In my most recent post about vacation, I shared the importance of having a detailed away message. I believe that importance still rings true. Recall that there are three key parts. One is obviously sharing that you are away and setting the expectation of when you will be able to substantively respond to messages. The second part is sharing who the sender can reach out to in your absence. (Obviously, you set that up beforehand). The last part is sharing why you are out.
After you have set your away message, trust it. Resist the urge to respond to emails while you are out. Otherwise, you are setting the opposite expectation to your message and encouraging more emails. Channel Disney’s “Frozen,” and do your best to let it go.
Take Your Phone With You (And Leave Your Computer At Home If You Can)
This advice may seem counterintuitive, but hear me out. If you have ever come back from a two-week vacation to hundreds of emails, that is where my advice comes from. Depending on your personality, there can be stress associated with FOMO — fear of missing out on an important email from a client (ahem, chief legal officer) or the stress of returning to the office with hundreds of unread or unfiled emails.
Personally, as in-house counsel, I prefer to have my phone with me so I can check and file emails — but I don’t want the laptop so I can resist doing any substantive work. I don’t actually carry my work phone with me the entire day. Rather, it’s at the hotel room or house I have rented, and I only check at certain times.
Set Times For Checking Email And Stick To Them
To resist working on your vacation, determine a time (and how long) you will spend checking your email daily and stick to it. It may depend on your time zone. If you have family, consider making this determination with them. For me, when I was vacationing in Florida, an hour ahead of the office, and my clients were either Pacific Time Zone or Central Time Zone, I checked my email in the afternoon (after beach or pool time) and after putting the kids to bed and spent no more than 30 minutes, skimming and filing, with an occasional forwarding of an email to a colleague who had graciously agreed to cover me while on vacation. The role is not to substantively respond to email but rather to “direct traffic.” It is not lost on me that you may want to respond to clients from a relationship-building perspective but keep it short — and focused on directing them to help without compromising your vacation.
While these tips are not “work-free,” hopefully they will allow you to intentionally enjoy your time off while ensuring your return is less stressful.
 While my column is focused on tips for in-house counsel, I collaborated with my friend, Niloy, who is at a firm, to create some “universal” tips, regardless of your practice.
Meyling “Mey” Ly Ortiz is in-house at Toyota Motor North America. Her passions include mentoring, championing belonging, and a personal blog: TheMeybe.com. At home, you can find her doing her best to be a “fun” mom to a toddler and preschooler and chasing her best self on her Peloton. You can follow her on LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/meybe/). And you knew this was coming: her opinions are hers alone.