We’ve all heard the phrase, “I need a vacation from my vacation.” In an effort to take time off, relax and recharge, we end up creating more stress than the stress we were trying to get a break from!
How do you avoid that? Here are my tips for taking time off in a way that doesn’t create even MORE stress in your life.
Tip #1 Defensive Calendaring
As soon as you plan your trip, block that time in your work calendar and start letting others know. With this advance notice, important meetings and reviews can potentially be scheduled before you leave or after you return. And when things aren’t happening without you present, there is less to catch up on when you’re back in the office.
Obviously, there will be things that just can’t move. I always tell the people who report to me, “there’s never an ideal time to take time off, so just take it!” Set expectations with others that you will need to miss that important meeting. And just make a plan for how you get the debrief on what went on while you were away.
Tip #2 Morning Departures
As part of your planning, give yourself time to pack for your trip. We’ve all attempted to hop on a plane immediately after finishing work on a Friday afternoon. For a busy mom juggling kids and work responsibilities, I don’t think it’s worth it.
My suggestion is to leave first thing in the morning. By doing this, you give yourself an evening to pack, do laundry and deal with the general chaos that is involved in getting yourself and your entire family ready for a trip. An added bonus is on the morning of your departure, your only focus is getting on your way for your trip. You are not trying to get yourself to work, your kids to school AND everyone ready to leave for a trip later that same day.
Tip #3 The One Week Countdown
The week before I leave for a trip, I’m looking ahead to the next week and getting ahead on things that may be due that week such as status reports, reviews or preparation and coaching that the people that report to me might need while I’m gone. I also start cancelling meetings for the period of time when I’m gone. By waiting until the week prior, it’s a gentle reminder for everyone that meets with you. I also find delegates to cover things while I’m away. If you are a manager, this is a great opportunity to give other people on your team opportunities to step up.
Last, I send an email to everyone that will be impacted by my absence reminding them that I’ll be gone and suggesting that if they need anything from me next week, they need to see me THIS week. I also put reminders on Skype and Slack and direct others to the delegates for each of the areas I’m responsible for so others know who to go to for questions in my absence.
Sound like overkill? Perhaps, but I get lots of positive comments from people thanking me for reminding them. I also notice that my time off is VERY quiet while I’m away. My email volumes are lower and Skype and Slack are mostly keeping me in the loop as opposed to a pile of direct messages. Since people know and remember you are away, they either got what they needed before you left or they are waiting for you to return.
Tip #4 Early Return
The same people who leave for the airport immediately after their last day of work often return either very late the night prior or in the morning before they need to head into work. In my humble opinion, this makes for a very difficult first week back at work after taking time off, especially if you’ve traveled across time zones.
I suggest arriving back at least a day ahead of your first day back to work. By giving yourself time to get laundry done, do your grocery shopping and meal preparations done, you are genuinely ready to start back to work and not have a ton of extra work piled on top because you didn’t get your typical weekend preparations or chores done.
An early return also helps kids settle down so they are rested and ready to go back to school where they can also be more productive and engaged.
Are you cutting your vacation short? Not if you insert something special into this day of chores such as a nice meal out or a family movie night with your kids.
By building in preparation and recovery time into your vacation plans, you can genuinely enjoy your time off and avoid creating a bunch of chaos that you need to recover from when you return. It’s so important to unplug and take time away from the day to day. You just don’t need to kill yourself in the process!