I am leaving for a week of vacation tomorrow. I will not have access to the internet or cell phone coverage for the majority of the time I am gone. For many of us with Type A tendencies, the anticipation of these circumstances can be downright stressful! While this special time with my family is something I have been looking forward to for a long time, the preparation for taking time out of the office can feel arduous!
As we head into the last few weeks of the summer vacation season, I wanted to share some tips I use to make the process of leaving for and returning from vacation a bit more graceful. With a bit of forethought and pre-planning, you can make the vacation itself truly a break from work, and keep the mental “to do list” out of your head.
Before You Go
Alert key customers, team members and vendors that you will be gone.
To better manage the expectations of those that you communicate with regularly, let them know you will be away from your office. This will remind them to ask for any information they need from you before you leave so that you will not return to an in-box full of unfulfilled requests. You can even use this as an excuse to reach out to customers to encourage them to move up deadlines to complete work before you depart, or push them back until after your return when planning can go uninterrupted.
Create a real or virtual folder of key documents to have accessible
The “What if” stories that run through your mind before you leave on vacation can make it feel hardly worth the effort to be away from the office. The anticipation of what might need to be addressed while you are gone can create unneeded worry. Creating a folder with key documents from active projects that you can bring with you can help you feel prepared to address issues in an emergency. Online cloud storage or sites like Dropbox can also be used to store documents virtually so they are accessible while traveling. Truth be told, the majority of the time, you will never even peek at these items, but knowing you have them accessible “just in case” can lessen the anxiety.
Leave a list on your desk of key items to address upon your return
The best thing you can do when you have decided to take time away is to really allow yourself to check out mentally and enjoy the vacation with no distractions. In order to truly leave the office behind, create a short list of the key “to do” items that need to be addressed when you return and leave it front and center on your desk so that it will be easy to pick up where you left off after your vacation. Knowing this list is there doing the work of holding your priorities in place during your absence will allow you to let the concerns of the office drift from your mind more easily.
Upon Your Return
Schedule in a 1-2 day re-entry period for integration
Anticipate now that you will want to gift yourself with 1-2 days to ease back into your work routine when you return. This soft landing can be planned in advance by limiting what you schedule during those first days back at your desk. Create space for the time needed to open mail, get updates from employees, and bring yourself up to speed at a kinder pace.
Plan to address small tasks first to bring your brain back up to speed
Expecting to jump into the deep end your first day back at the office is unrealistic, so plan to take on some of the more manageable tasks on your action item list first. This will help you to feel that you have actually accomplished something immediately after returning, and hopefully prevent the common tendency to feel overwhelmed when trying to catch up on everything that occurred during your break all at once.
Use your refreshed perspective to infuse new energy and creativity into your work
Being in a new location and taking on the adventure that comes with a vacation can activate our creativity and allow us to see things from a new perspective. Taking ourselves out of our daily routine makes it easier to see new solutions to places we have been stuck. Use this time of fresh creativity to bring new thinking to your work and productivity, and to re-visit problems or topics that might have stymied you before the break. You might surprise yourself with what a fresh set of eyes helps you to see.
Don’t let your vacation days go unused because it seems like too much work to step away from the office! Use these helpful tips to create an easy vacation transition and to truly come back to the office refreshed and recharged.