As I write this, I’m on vacation…hanging out with my family and getting a much-deserved rest. Taking a vacation is extremely important in maintaining a strong work ethic for the rest of the year. I know many workplaces allow for employees to take pay in lieu of time off—I would advise against doing this. Your body and mind need the rest. Depriving them of that only saps your energy further and sets yourself for missed opportunities and letdowns. Take the time off…you deserve it.
That said, you can put yourself in a great position to “take care of business” while you’re pretty far removed it. It’s not terribly taxing to do, either. It just requires planning and setting up the right boundaries for you, your employer and your family in order to make sure you can do it both guilt-free and without sacrificing a ton of your hard-earned time.
Go far away…but not too far
The world got a heck of a lot smaller with the advent of the web. I mean, it’s not dubbed the “World Wide Web” for nothing, right? You can go pretty far away and put yourself in a position to take care of any extremely pertinent things that may pop up while you’re away. The key is to make sure you identify what “extreme” means to both you and your workplace. About two weeks before you depart for vacation, sit down with your superior(s) and find out what is important to get done before you leave. Then make sure you get it (or have it) done. This is a must. Not taking care of this stuff before you leave means you won’t be entirely on vacation. Your body may be, but your mind certainly won’t be. That’s no vacation, folks.
Once you’ve isolated what you need to do before you go, find out what you feel you must do while you are gone. Once you’ve asked yourself this, ask your boss. Then compare. At this juncture, you’ll need to categorize them into two areas:
- Things I am expected to do in order to get things ready for the next level.
- Things I’d like to do to show I am ready for the next level.
I can’t tell what to put where. That’s up to you. One thing I can say is that you need to discuss this with your vacation partner (if applicable). That will most definitely play into your decision. Ideally, you will have already done a lot of #2 in advance (and throughout the year), but #2 may apply if you feel you haven’t been—or you are in a workplace where you need to prove yourself even while you’re away.
Bottom line: Do both consistently so you can do the time you’ve earned to do neither.
Set up shop, then leave
Set up email vacation responders, then stop answering emails. In your responder a good rule of thumb is a message similar to the following:
“I will be away from the office from <insert vacation time here> and will get back to you within 2 business days of my return.”
Always let them know you need a couple of days when you return to catch your breath. Even if you believe you don’t, trust me…you will.
Send an email or inter-office memo to let those “who need to know” exactly “what they need to know.” Such things may include location of files that are pertinent to a project, deadlines and other shared items. Ideally, you’ll have given them a lot of this in electronic form beforehand (or even attached to the email), but it never hurts to have a backup plan in place. Plus, if things go awry, you’ve always got that email, right?
Do the little things. Water your plant and put a note asking someone else to take care of it while you’re away. Clean your desk off. Set yourself up for a “clean” return to work. A bonus to doing this before you go is that you return to a more appealing work environment, but if your plant isn’t dead you can assume that you’re at least liked enough at your workplace that they’re not willing to take it out on another life form!
Really take the time
Above all else, you have to take the time you’ve earned and make the most of it. This is a time to connect with loved ones, visit and experience new locations and recharge your batteries. You have to do this or you’re no good to anyone, especially yourself. Even if you truly love your job, you have to take a break from it. You’ll burn out otherwise. No one wants to be around a burnout…they have no energy so they have no other way to cope but to sap the energy of others.
The key to a happy vacation on all fronts is to pick your spots. Know when to work (if necessary) and when to play. I just did.
On that note, time to head back to the pool!
I’ve read a number of posts about taking breaks but this is the most memorable one thus far. I realized how important it is to consider the two points above (things I’m expected to do to be ready for the next level, and those I’d like to do to show I’m ready for the next level). During vacations, I also think it is a good idea to bring little or no work-related electronic devices with you.