30th June 2014

Be Productive: Take A Vacation

11 Top Strategies To Leave and Return Peacefully.

Last week, a client shared with me her choice to forgo a vacation this summer. As she shared with me, it was just too much work to prepare for her absence from the office. If that wasn’t bad enough, the reentry process upon her return was equally, if not more, brutal.

Does the thought of a vacation right now make you cringe? In lieu of thinking about the warm sun, the cool sand, and the peace, are you plagued by thoughts of how much time it will take you to prepare for your departure and then the crushing volume of email and tasks waiting for you when you return?

If you are you contemplating the choice to shorten or forgo altogether your vacation this year, I challenge you to think again.

Studies show that not taking regular breaks can increase your risks of heart disease, depression and even premature death.

So, how do you simply, sanely, and productively prepare for your vacation and ensure a smooth reentry? Here are 11 top strategies to help you get packed, out the door, and then back into your work routine peacefully.

Prepare for a Sane Departure

First, as difficult as it may be to carve out the time to do so, it is essential that you give yourself ample time, I recommend 3 to 4 weeks, to prepare and plan. I want you to enjoy your first day of vacation, not collapse in exhaustion.

Here is your preparation checklist.

  1. Book a meeting with yourself the first morning you are back in the office. Block the first morning and if possible the whole first day you are back in the office to collect, process and organize emails, return phone calls, connect with colleagues and get clear and current.
  2. Review your project and task list. Focus solely on the “must be completed”, not the “like to” or “want to complete”. For all of the remaining projects and tasks, make a note of their status and then write down the next action step you need to take upon returning from your vacation. If you do this step before you leave, it will make for a much easier, smoother reentry.
  3. Determine contingency plans. Who will cover your key accounts? Who will be your point of contact on key projects? Can you provide an opportunity to a junior colleague to oversee an account while you are away? Who will be able to reach you in case of an emergency? Document this information in a list that you share with your colleagues. As well, include in your out of office email message a list of who should be contacted for each type of issue, concern or inquiry. You might also want to consider putting your vacation in your email signature prior to your departure. For example, Please note I will away from the office on vacation from July 7 – July 14 – and begin posting his to email starting June 30.
  4. Communicate to your colleagues. Let them know the status of any projects that impact them and the respective contingency plans for each project. Also, let them know if you will be checking in while you are away and what your designated “office hours” will be while you are on vacation. I hope your vacation will be “unplugged”, however I know that is not always possible.
  5. Communicate to your clients, vendors and any other key stakeholders. Update them on the status of their projects and identify who is their point of contact while you are away. Let them know if you will be checking in while you are away and what your designated “office hours” will be while you are on vacation.
  6. Inventory your vacation supplies. Do you have all of the clothing and equipment you need for your vacation? Sunscreen? Hat? Swimsuit? Have you downloaded the books you want to read to your Kindle? What do you need to make your vacation special and memorable? Purchase any missing or required vacation items.
  7. Prepare your home for departure. Did you stop your mail and newspapers or plan for them to be collected for you? Who is watching your pets, watering your plants and/or checking on your home while you are away?

Ensure a Smooth Reentry

You returned home after a fun, relaxing, calm vacation, and you’re heading into the office first thing tomorrow morning. The Sunday night blues have set in and you are dreading reentry. To ensure a smooth reentry here is your checklist.

  1. Use travel time to begin catching up. If you are traveling by air, use the flight time to check email, review your task list and calendar for the upcoming week. This will help you mentally get back in the game and organize yourself for the upcoming week. If you are not traveling far, return a few hours earlier and use this time to catch up and prepare for the upcoming week.
  2. Capture fresh insights. New ideas and insights always strike when you’re away from it all and not necessarily thinking about work. Also, while your brain is still fresh, ask yourself some honest questions about your tasks and to-do list. What activities have crept into your work day that do not produce a high return on time investment for you? What meetings are you attending where your presence is really not needed? What aspects of your work did no one miss while you were gone? In other words, take a look at those reports you keep generating that no one missed or even asked about while you were away, and think about how you can offer the information more effectively. Or, is this information really necessary?
  3. Slowly and steadily get back into your work routine. Show your vacation photos, talk about your trip and give yourself some grace upon reentry. Remember, the world didn’t collapse while you were away. When things start to feel overwhelming, identify specifically what is causing your overwhelm – is it the type of work, the intensity or focus required or the people involved. Once you identify specifically what needs to change, then focus on what you can control. If you are enjoying the type of work that you are doing, but are working with a challenging boss, determine what you will do differently to better communicate with her.
  4. Incorporate one small vacation pleasure back into your life. There were many things you enjoyed while on vacation, maybe breakfast in bed, reading the newspaper front to back, relaxing walks or learning something new. I recently returned from a vacation and spent time every day walking in the woods. It was soothing and reinvigorating. Since returning, I have spent at least 15 minutes each day outside, quietly enjoying nature.

Now, go do one of the most productivity activities you could do – take a vacation.  Enjoy a sane departure and a smooth reentry. So, when is your next vacation?