Here’s the scenario: you have a vacation coming up in two weeks. You should be looking forward to it, imagining yourself letting stress melt away under the sun or on the slopes, but all you can think about is the work that will pile up while you’re away. You might even feel like skipping the vacation just to save from all of the stress that comes with leaving the office. But we all need a vacation sometimes, it just takes some minor, but strategic planning to get you in a vacation state of mind.
I thought about writing this post because, as I type, I am on my annual family getaway in Wellfleet on Cape Cod and although I am periodically checking my email, I am getting some much needed relaxation and quality time with my kids. Whether you are an executive or an intern, I thought sharing my own tips could be helpful for those of you going away this summer. Here’s the plan I follow, with the severity depending on the length and location of the vacation:
1) Let essential colleagues and employees know at least 2 weeks before the vacation
No matter what your position is, there are people around you who will need to know that you are going away. At Scout, we make sure to add the vacation days to the master calendar as soon as possible, even if they are still tentative. I make a habit of clicking through the calendar every so often to see if there are any absences added. By knowing ahead of time, your employees and colleagues have time to prepare for your absence and aren’t suddenly surprised and stressed by the extra work they may have. I would also recommend having a short meeting every six months or so to go through the entire calendar with those immediately above and below you so you can let each other know about important dates like weddings and family vacations.
2) Create a buffer
The goal is to make sure your vacation state of mind starts a little bit before you’re actually on vacation. I make an effort to create a barrier between work and vacation by not working the day before I leave on a long trip. This way, work will be less likely to leak into the first few days of vacation. I recommend getting loose ends tied up a few days before leaving. You will feel much better if you do not have tasks lingering over your head the day before leaving or the entire trip.
This extra day before also lets you pack leisurely so you are less likely to forget something. It also allows you time to double check your travel itinerary to make for stress-free travel.
3) Make sure everyone knows their role
Face it – there is always going to be something important going on while you are away and it is impossible to tie up all loose ends. To make sure you are not micro-managing from the beach chair, delegate important tasks to the appropriate people. Make sure they know the task and have all possible questions answered before you leave.
4) Set boundaries
This might be the most difficult task of all. Before you leave, you have to decide how much time you are comfortable with spending on work (hint: not a lot, this is your vacation) and then letting your employees and colleagues know. Before I left for the Cape, I let everyone know that I will be periodically checking my email (a half hour when I wake up and a half hour in the evening) but that I did plan on taking a break and taking the R&R that I needed. Of course, emergencies can happen so let everyone know the best number to reach you and the contact information of where you are staying but otherwise, they will respect your much needed time away.
After all, a relaxed boss is the best kind of boss.