Americans are never more productive than the weeks, days, and hours just before they leave work for their much-needed vacations. We work hard and vacation is sacrosanct. Unfortunately, the process of preparing for our absence and tying up all of the loose ends can create some of our most stressful times as well.
Use the following tips to smooth the route of “getting out the door”.
#1 Two Weeks Prep = One Week Off
Use this time to pay attention to those items which will need consideration while you are gone. Begin to track these items with the idea of who can handle “this” should it need attention and what will that colleague have to do with “this” in order for it to be successfully handled.
Add these items to a dedicated section of your trusty To-Do list
#2 Communicate with Your Boss
Just because you told them 4 months ago that you were going on vacation does not mean that they tracked it, remembered it, or are even aware of it. Set up a short meeting to cover the following details:
#3 Communicate with Co-Workers
- Reiterate and review vacation “gone” dates and any standard meetings which you will not be attending because of your absence.
- Update the status of projects - Discuss where you expect to be on each project before you leave and how you intend to handle them upon your return. Outline how your absence may affect them.
Discuss accessibility - The days of being completely off the grid may sadly be gone for some of us. But this is your opportunity to set the expectation of your “unavailability." Without this important conversation, you may find yourself answering email and fielding phone calls the whole time you are away.
These are the folks who “have your back” while you are gone. If your company has a “coverage” policy in effect, then take advantage of that process. If not, connect with a colleague or two who can handle some issues or respond to questions in your absence.
Either way, set up a formal meeting with these colleagues early in the week prior to your departure. Do not attempt to update them on the nuances of your absence late in the afternoon on Friday before you leave. Minimally,, you will annoy them. Maximally, you will annoy them and you won't have converge!
Go over the following:
#4 Convey “Power Off” with the Outside World
- Reiterate dates
- Outstanding Items - This is the time to inform your colleague of these pending items and what they will have to do in your stead. Also, give them a brief update on who might be contacting them and what they may need to do in each situation.
- Identify where information/paperwork needed can be retrieved - Provide them with the exact location where information can be found to respond to possible inquiries. Create a quick reference “while I’m gone” file and either leave it with them or let them know where it can be found.
- Define routines - Provide them with a step-by-step schematic, if you have routines which they will need to perform.
A survey by Expedia shows that 4% of Americans CONSTANTLY check email while on vacation and 31% said they check it sometimes. You NEED and deserve to be untethered from your job while on vacation. With your boss, decide what you would like your power-off policy to be. Inform co-workers, vendors and other interested parties what your accessibility is.
Make sure you change outgoing messages on both voice mail and email. Indicate the following:
#5 Know the Status of Your Projects
- The dates of your absence
- Whether you will be checking or not
- Whom they should contact in lieu of you
- Restate your return date
In the weeks prior to your departure, formally track where you stand on each project. Create a project tracker to capture the next steps for each of your projects. This should be simple but comprehensive. Use a project tracker in any of the following formats:
- Hard copy paper
- Excel spreadsheet
- List in a MS Word document
- Electronic task list
Use this tracker to update your boss and colleagues when you meet with them.
#6 Prepare for Your Return Week
As much as we would like to never come back sometimes, it is inevitable that we must!! So being prepared before you go helps ease that transition back.
#7 Dive Back In
- Don’t overbook your schedule that first week back - Sometimes coming back from vacate leaves us a little dazed. We are still mentally enjoying the sun and sand. Keep at least the first morning back in the office completely free of meetings. Block the time on your calendar as "booked" so that co-workers do not schedule over it while you are gone. Create and important sounding meeting title, i.e., "Update Meeting on Global Marketing Strategy Project". Do NOT call it "blocked time". It will be gone before you leave the building.
- DO schedule an appointment with your admin that first day back - This person has been holding down the fort while you were gone and they will need your time to move unanswered items along.
- Prepare for 1st day back before you leave - If you have meetings that you must attend that first day back, prep the materials before you go. Print agendas, documentation and reports before you leave.
Realize that the first day back is going to be a little overwhelming.
- First - Review your To-Do list before you check your email. These were your priorities before your left. There is no reason to think they are not STILL your priorities.
- Then - Check your voice mail. Do not return any phone calls now; simply add any actions needed to your To-Do list.
- Next - Do another sweep of your inbox looking for high priority emails - those from your boss, your boss’s boss, or those relevant to any projects you have pending. Only respond to those emails which will take less than a minute.
- Then process your inbox - DO IT, or make a decision and capture the action. If you can “deal” with an email in less than a minute, do it. If not, use a specific technique to capture the action, move it to tasks, or add an action word in the To-Do column. (The one you created based on previous instructions.) Don’t just leave it!
- Now you can begin to reprioritize this information into your To-Do list and schedule priority items into your calendar.
The most important thing to do regarding your vacation is to GO.
I tell my seminar clients, you are never going to be “done” work. If you are, they don’t need you tomorrow. Leave your office and ENJOY your vacation. Time spent in recreational activities with family and friends can be the most productive time you have. It is restorative and rejuvenating. It clears your mind for more creative endeavors. Plus it’s just plain FUN!
I wish each of you a WONDERFUL