A vacation should be a relaxing reprieve from your chaotic work life. However, if you don’t adequately prepare for it, you could return feeling even more stressed than you did when you left.
“To be completely present on your vacation, you’ll need to do a lot of planning and prep work beforehand,” says Michael Kerr, an international business speaker and author of “You Can’t Be Serious! Putting Humour to Work.” “Planning allows you to enjoy your vacation worry-free.”
Here are eight things you should do to prepare for your vacation:
1. Be strategic with your schedule. Many people complain about the stress of getting all their work done before a vacation, and then the stress of catching up and being overwhelmed when they return. “In fact, that’s why some employees avoid taking vacations altogether,” Kerr says. “When I was a manager, I often left a day later than I announced, and arrived back at work a day earlier than scheduled. This gave me a free day essentially on either end of the vacation.”
If you can’t do this, then at least plan your schedule carefully. “Don’t book anything important the day before your vacation or the first day back. And plan effectively so you can leave work a few hours early the day before, rather than doing what many people do and leave late, adding substantially to their stress level.”
2. Create a customised autoreply email message and outgoing voicemail. Upon your return, you won’t want to listen to 10 angry voicemails from the same person wondering why you’re not returning their calls. You also don’t want clients tracking you down at the beach with urgent questions and requests. To avoid this, set up an outgoing voicemail and autoreply email that say how long you’ll be out and who to contact in your absence.
3. Contact high priority clients or customers a week or two before you leave. Let them know you’ll be out, and ask if there’s anything they need before you leave. “It’s a great excuse to reach out to them; it demonstrates that you’re thinking of them; it gives them enough warning so that you can help them with any issues well before you leave; and it will give you peace of mind,” Kerr says.
4. Start prioritizing your workload early, recognising you’ll lever get everything done. Set clear goals for what you want to finish before you leave, and what’s ok to resume after you return. “There may even be some ‘vacation doable’ work that you are ok bringing with you,” Kerr says. For example, catching up on business reading.
5. Look ahead at your calendar. Look at what’s happening work wise a month after your vacation so that you can anticipate things clients or colleagues may need and may come looking for right in the middle of your vacation, Kerr suggests. “Doing this will again ensure greater peace of mind.”
6. Decide upon and communicate your “rules of engagement” while you’re away. Ask yourself the following questions before you leave — and let your co-workers and family know the situation: Will I be reachable by email? Will I be checking voice mail messages? Is my spouse/travel companion on board with me checking into the office every three days? What is it ok for my team to handle on their own, and what do I want to be informed about?
“With technology, all rules are off as to how you separate work and vacation nowadays,” Kerr says. “Think about what works best for you. Do you want to be completely unreachable? Or would you feel better if you’re able to do 30 minutes of work every two days of your vacation?” These are the questions you need to answer before you leave.
6. Make a checklist. In fact, you should make several, Kerr says. “A ‘vacation/family planning checklist,’ an ‘essential to-do before departure,’ and finally, a checklist for what you know you’ll need to do the first day you return to work. Getting this last one down on paper is critical for reducing stress.”
7. Let colleagues know well in advance of your vacation plans. Send a reminder note a week out to give them plenty of advanced warning. That way if they need anything from you, it’s on them to get in touch before you leave. “And again, you come across as professional, considerate and service-focused,” Kerr adds.
8. Empower and trust people on your team. If you are in a leadership position, vacation is the perfect time to practice letting go and trusting your team or key individuals with more responsibility, Kerr says. “The more you can do this, the easier each successive vacation will get.”
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