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29 Apr

Plan for a truly unplugged vacation

Datum: 2015-04-29 12:00

Believe it or not, but the sum­mer and time for vaca­tion will be here soon­er than you think. It might feel far off now when win­ter is still fresh in mem­o­ry, but before you know it the evenings are warmer and the nights are longer. At least speak­ing for myself, spring is always intense and I have a feel­ing already that it will be Mid­sum­mer faster than I now think.

The vaca­tion is a time for recre­ation and reflec­tion, but it might eas­i­ly come with a slight feel­ing of stress and inad­e­qua­cy. We work and work all the way to the very last moment before our free time begins, and yet we find it dif­fi­cult to do and fin­ish all the things we need­ed to get done before our vaca­tion. Just when you have man­aged to unwind, a col­league who needs your help to find a few doc­u­ments in your office calls. And when you get back to the office after five love­ly weeks of relax­ation, you are greet­ed by an over­loaded email-inbox and 800 unread emails.

Per­haps it feels very dis­tant and far-off, but if we do some­thing con­crete now to make it eas­i­er to both leave the office for, as well as return from our vaca­tion, we will be ahead of our­selves and not feel as stressed when the time for a break rolls around.

When I was inter­viewed about what we can do to plan for our vaca­tion in a struc­tured way, this is what I responded:

Do this

  1. Reserve an emp­ty slot of time in your cal­en­dar just before and after your vaca­tion. Try not to sched­ule any meet­ings dur­ing the week pri­or to your break (or at least make sure you have as few meet­ings as pos­si­ble). You might very well need a full week just to fin­ish the tasks you real­ly need to get done before you leave as well as the tasks oth­ers just need you to help them with before you leave”.

    Dur­ing your absence the emails will con­tin­ue to flow into your inbox. And when you get back you will need to address every sin­gle one of them. If you then have filled your first week with meet­ings, you will fall even fur­ther behind on your cor­re­spon­dence for anoth­er week and it might eas­i­ly take you sev­er­al weeks (and in some cas­es months) to get caught up with your emails. Hence, block time dur­ing your first week back as well. I usu­al­ly think along the lines of one week away from work = a full day of respond­ing to emails” (since I receive between 60 and 80 emails in a day).

  2. Make the mate­r­i­al your col­leagues need while you are gone eas­i­ly avail­able. If you want to decrease the fre­quen­cy of dis­rup­tions by col­leagues call­ing you and ask­ing for instance where they can find the plans for the project you are work­ing on, place what­ev­er mate­r­i­al it is prob­a­ble that they might need to find clear­ly vis­i­ble on your desk. Sure, it is a while until you need to do this, but cre­ate a doc­u­ment today where you make note of the mate­r­i­al oth­ers might need when you are gone as you come to think of it dur­ing the months to come. This way you grad­u­al­ly con­struct a check­list which you can use right before your vaca­tion. So, just before you leave the office on your last day, place every­thing on the list on your desk. It is now much eas­i­er for oth­ers to find what they are look­ing for (giv­en that the desk is some­what emp­ty of oth­er things).

  3. Skim through your to-do-list and look for tasks which are due dur­ing the time you are away. Make a deci­sion now if you:
    • should move the due date to a lat­er date (and let those you are per­form­ing the task for know now)
    • should move the due date to an ear­li­er date (and hence com­plete the task well ahead of schedule)
    • should del­e­gate the task to a col­league who is not on vaca­tion when you are (and also sched­ule a time to meet if you need to show or teach this per­son any­thing in order for them to com­plete the task)

No has­sle while going on or return­ing from your vacation
If you start mak­ing arrange­ments for a smooth tran­si­tion to and from your time off, you pre­vent any feel­ings of stress and inad­e­qua­cy, and def­i­nite­ly make your weeks off work more enjoy­able. It will be eas­i­er to get going again after your hol­i­day and you will not have to process old emails sev­er­al weeks after your return to work.

What is your secret?
How do you make sure that going on and return­ing from a vaca­tion is done as smooth­ly as pos­si­ble? Write a com­ment to share your findings.