Working during your vacation: 5 tips to ensure you don’t!

You know how it goes. You spend all year looking forward to the big vacation you have planned but when it’s upon you, you spend half your vacation checking your phone, driving to the closest coffee shop to get in a couple hours, or perhaps taking an ‘urgent’ call right at the trailhead before embarking on a beautiful hike (this last one happened last year). Fortunately, all of these are totally avoidable if you plan ahead of time. Here are five tips to help.

Let everyone know. Get your vacation time on everyone’s calendars, and I mean everyone. Do this as soon as you book your flight, hotel room, or campsite. In addition, tell as many people as possible in person. Make it clear that you will not be checking your phone, will not have your laptop, and are basically unreachable. Communicating in this way makes it very clear what the expectations are while you are getting your much needed R&R.

Prioritize projects. Plan far in advance and frontload your work if you know your vacation is coming up in a month or two. Putting in the extra hours for a couple weeks will be worth it when you’re leaving on a jet plane and you can finally pick up that novel you’ve been meaning to read for the last 2 years.

Focus on more urgent deadlines first and leave the stuff that can wait for when you get back. Yes, you’d like to have EVERYTHING done before you leave but that’s hardly ever realistic. Accepting that there WILL be work waiting for you can help you truly prioritize what actually needs to get done before you leave. One thing that can make coming back a bit easier is making a list of what will need to be tackled when you get back. Then forget about it until you return.

Delegate everything. Once you’ve prioritized, run through all of the meetings, projects, and tasks that will need to be covered while you’re out, and delegate to the appropriate individuals. Be sure to list these people and their contact information on a detailed out-of-office reply on your email. Schedule meetings with each individual or team to ensure clarity on what needs to get done and when. This might seem like a lot of upfront work but it will ensure business will continue running while you’re out, and reduce the possibility of those ‘urgent’ calls (because they are never that urgent, let’s be honest). Be sure to return the favor when those covering for you go on their own vacations.

Clean up. Tidy up your area before leaving. Make sure everything has a place so those covering for you can find what they need. Plus, it can help beat the back-to-work-blues when you return.

Do not answer phone calls or emails when you’re gone. I’m going to get a little edgy here. I highly advise you to NEVER answer phone calls or emails from work while you’re on your vacation. The minute you do this, you open the door to back and forth that can suck you into hours of work and time away from your much needed vaca. If it’s truly urgent, they will leave a message and YOU can decide if it merits a return call. Same with email. Newsflash: you are not indispensable. People WILL figure it out if they really know you’re not available. There is rarely a time that the ONLY person that can keep work going is you.

I work for a very large corporation and people are constantly in and out of vacation. After 12 years at my current company, I have never not once come across a time when work simply stopped because a key person was on vacation. It was only when they responded to an email or phone call that they got sucked into working on their time off. We all need it but few actually get it. Do the work upfront and you’ll pave the way for the opportunity to truly unplug.

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