Recently I returned from the longest (8 workdays) vacation I have ever taken from this job (almost 11 years). I made an interesting discovery which I'm happy to share with you:
Life goes on without you.
I spent most of the time aboard a small cruise ship touring Alaska's Inside Passage and Glacier Bay. During almost all of that, I was out of cell phone range (and, unlike a lot of my colleagues, I don't carry a smart phone but just a dumb $5 flip phone). With no wifi on the ship, I was completely cut off from the Internet for the longest stretch in at least the last 15 years – maybe the longest since I first got Internet at my house back in the mid-90s.
Life (on the Internet) goes on without you.
Facebook posts get posted, liked, commented on. Tweets happen, get re-tweeted. Emails are sent (for those that still use it, anyway). And life goes on.
I can't say I came back from vacation recharged in some stupendous way, but I think I'm better off than if I'd taken a shorter vacation in an Internet-connected location, checking up on the virtual world before breakfast and bedtime every day.
So take vacations, and take meaningful ones – disconnect from work. Don't worry about what's piling up, or what's happening in the online communities in which you participate. If you're going away for a week, really go away and leave work behind. If a crisis arises, make sure someone else is equipped to at least try to handle it, but don't go into your vacation planning for it to be interrupted.
If you can't do that, you should start preparing for it anyway. Train someone to be able to jump in and do your job (inefficiently, sure, but that's far better than "not at all"). Because quite frankly, if you can't cut the ties that bind you to that mission-critical production system on a voluntary, scheduled basis, then you are far too vulnerable to the random interruptions of life (car accident, death in the family, lengthy power failure for us telecommuters) that will come (oh, they will come).