During my recent trip to Africa, I saw many unforgettable and fascinating sights – from gorillas in the mountains of Rwanda to elephants and impalas on the Serengeti. But perhaps the most remarkable sight was the image in my mirror each morning: me, on vacation.

It’s been a long time since I’ve unplugged from work – much too long. It doesn’t come naturally to me and I know many of you feel the same way. But for me, it ended up being well worth it. Taking a real break was essential for my well-being and for the well-being of every member of our hard-working organization.

With the holidays coming up, I want to share a few things I learned about unplugging from work in a world where it’s getting easier and easier to stay connected:

  1. Make the commitment.

Sometimes, just making the decision to take a vacation can be the hardest part. What will happen to the important work you’re doing? How will your teammates get by if you’re off on a beach somewhere? What if the people covering for you start doing things differently than you would have? And what kind of email situation will you face when you get back?

All fair questions and all with the same answer: it’ll be fine. You may have to scramble a bit before and after the trip, but the world will keep turning and your company will survive. We give employees vacation time for a reason – because we need to rest and restore ourselves.

  1. Value your life as much as you value your work.

Research shows that happier, healthier people are more productive, they do better work and they’re better teammates. Take care of yourself and you’ll be better able to take care of business at your company. Take vacation time, making the most of the opportunity for a change of scenery and some new experiences – I bet you’ll come back with new energy and fresh perspectives. After my Africa trip, I definitely did.

  1. Think of your team.

It’s a classic job interview cliché to say that your biggest weakness is that you work too hard, as if your main flaw is actually a strength – but it’s no joke. Aside from the impact on your own well-being, think of the effect on the people around you. Does anyone ever love working with or for a relentless workaholic?

And consider the example you’re setting. As a leader, it’s not enough to give people permission to take a vacation. You’ve got to walk the walk – all the way to Africa if need be – to show that doing the right thing for yourself is just as important as doing the right thing for your company, and in the end, it will help your team and your company. It also shows your team that you trust them enough to leave things in their hands while you’re gone. You’ll return refreshed, inspired and ready to be the kind of colleague they’re glad to work with every day.

  1. Shut it down—really.

With Citrix technology, work is no longer a place – you can stay connected and securely access your information and data from anywhere, at anytime (I know, that makes it even harder to disconnect). But that just puts the responsibility in your hands to make sure that your vacation is really a vacation.

As you’re arranging your getaway, making a game plan for disconnecting is just as important as buying tickets and booking rooms. Are there days when you’ll absolutely have to connect to participate in a meeting, sign off on a contract, check in on a project? Be honest, is it really essential? If so, put it on your calendar and connect virtually, but leave the rest of your time off-limits. No peeking at email, no checking in on projects, no middle-of-the-night memos. If it helps your peace of mind, you can always leave an in-case-of-emergency contact protocol; if a world-changing work crisis does come up, you’ll be able to power up securely wherever you happen to be. But otherwise, be present and keep your eyes on the road (and the elephants in my case).

  1. Take a deep breath and trust the process.

During my time at Texas Instruments, my then-manager gave me feedback during my evaluation that I’ll never forget: “Take vacation.” I knew my boss cared about my career and my well-being, so I took her feedback to heart and made it one of my development priorities. And I scheduled a vacation two months later.

Though I probably still don’t follow this guidance as much as I should, I always remember the advice I received – I’m the only one with the power to change my own behavior and I need to make time to disconnect. Now that I’ve learned my lesson, I’m passing it on to you…

Make your plans, prep your team, then enjoy your time off! Your company and your team will still be here when you get back, and they’ll be glad to see a refreshed version of yourself.  

Happy holidays! Remember to disconnect and enjoy some meaningful family time. And when you absolutely need to connect, Citrix has your back.