It’s booked! You’re going on a much needed vacation in a few months. Now just download your best vacation countdown app so you can count the seconds until you’re running away from the stress of work. Fast forward a few weeks. You realize the excitement about the trip has taken over your life, and now you’re cramming to pack a suit, address that long to-do list you’ve been avoiding, and actually tell everyone you’ll be gone! Too much to do, too little time.
Well, to avoid the unnecessary pre-, during-, and post-vacation work induced stress, here are some practical pointers for how to truly leave your worries behind.
Before you go…
At work, tell your team at least three weeks in advance of any trip you have coming up. They’ll be able to prepare any questions or requests they have from you well in advance. And just in case they hit you with that big ask the day before you leave, well, at least you did your due diligence and gave them a heads up. So, when you tell someone, “sorry that’ll have to wait,” it won’t be a total shocker.
When it comes to communicating your getaway, it’s helpful to set that automated out-of-office. Make sure it’s not the same one from last vacation (“Happy Holidays!…” in July). Also, try to spice it up a bit with a refreshing twist on your away message!
Next, address that to-do list you’ve got sitting around. Don’t have one? Time to jot one down. Get all the things you’ve been pushing off on one list, and prioritize when they need to be delivered. If it can wait till after you get back, bottom of the list. If it’s a must-have before you go, time to address those as soon as you can. And if you do this early enough, it might be worth banging out any of those annoying tasks you’ve been actively avoiding; it’ll save you the stress of remembering you have to do it when you get back from your luxurious getaway.
While you’re at it, better address that at home to-do list, as well. Clean your house up, do the dishes, take out the trash, and get your laundry done. You may not get a weekly allowance for doing it, but you’ll thank yourself BIG TIME when you get back. Oh, and of course… don’t wait until the morning of your trip to finish packing that suitcase!
While you’re gone…
Plenty of folks are guilty of the constant email check, or “touch base” to make sure your team is pulling their weight while you’re gone. Others say to kill the LTE; kill the WiFi; leave your phone off and in your suitcase; enjoy the vacation! But how are you going to get that one-of-a-kind selfie in front of the Eiffel Tower with your best friend, then?
Well, I say the right balance is to disconnect… from notifications! Turn off the notifications from email, your calendar, Slack, JIRA, or anything that’s going to remind you of work. And remember to set a reminder for when you get back to turn these back on. This way you can journal your entire trip on Instagram or Snapchat or Myspace without giving up access to the entire world. Creating that separation between your time at work and your personal time is truly important. Some companies even shut off your email for you after work hours!
Another thing to remember while you’re away is to let go of the things you have no control over. If you’re bothered by some item you didn’t check off your to-do list before you left, or stressing a conversation you need to have when you return… don’t. David Allen explains in Getting Things Done that you need to capture, clarify, organize, reflect, and engage in order to manage your backlog of to-do’s in a healthy way. “Organize”, specifically, means getting yourself up to do the tasks you need to when you can actually do them. For example, if you need to do your laundry before your in-laws visit this weekend, no need to stress about the laundry while you’re at your office — you physically cannot do anything about it. Now, perhaps these visitors induce other stressors in your life, but that’s for another article!
When you get back…
Ah, the dreaded return to reality. Your trip has concluded, the Sunday Scaries are supercharged, and you may begin to worry about all that you are coming back to, both at work and at home. Good news is you probably read this blog before you left, RIGHT?! Your house is clean and your to-do list is prioritized. So the night before going back to the office (or even the morning of), review that prioritized to-do list, and get yourself mentally back into the context of where you left off.
Another thing I recommend is getting to the office about 30 minutes to an hour earlier than you normally do on that first day back. This will give you a little extra time to readjust and grab a second cup of coffee while you catch up on all your emails. You’ll likely get hit with a flood of “how was your trip!?” Getting in early buys you a little time to answer everyone’s burning questions about your getaway.
Finally, here’s one optional tip. Bring a little something back for your team or folks who sit you in area. Maybe after snagging that selfie by the Eiffel Tower, you hit a bakery and grab an extra box of macarons for your team at the office. For anyone that was stressing (or grudging) your absence, this is a nice way for them to welcome your return, and probably even look forward to your next trip.
And just remember…
Taking a vacation is a necessary privilege. It’s necessary to detach and recharge, but it’s a privilege to get the opportunity to be away, do nothing, and still get paid. Plan accordingly, and you’ll have an amazing trip!