5 Steps to Managing a Stress-Free Spring Break from Work
By Hallie Crawford
While taking a vacation should be fun and relaxing, many business professionals find that the stress of leaving work projects and trying to play catch-up makes going away not worth it. Many even opt to not take a break altogether to avoid the extra stress. If you would like to get away from the cold this spring, but aren't sure how to plan to avoid stress before and after, these tips can help.
1. Make before and after checklists. Three weeks before your vacation, make a checklist of things that need to be accomplished before you leave, with deadlines and the remaining action items that need to be completed. This could include making sure that pending tasks are completed, important files are updated, clients are contacted and work is delegated before you leave. Then create a checklist of things you will need to accomplish when you get back from vacation. This could include items, such as checking in with clients, getting reports from your team members on any projects and asking for a prioritized list of new tasks. It's better to create the after-vacation checklist before you leave, rather than when you get back. You are still in work-mode at that point, and it will be easier to remember what you need to do now instead of when you are trying to come out of vacation-mode.
2. Trust your co-workers. If you decide that you need to delegate work while you are gone to ensure things run smoothly in your absence, ask a responsible co-worker. If you need ideas about who should handle what, ask your boss for suggestions on who could stay on top of ongoing projects while you are gone. Once you have decided, determine how much explanation is required and how long that will take. Explain and show them what needs to be done. If needed, write out a simple checklist for them. Make sure that they have contact information for you in case of any emergency, but then trust them to take care of the work. You could ask them to send you a brief report when you return from vacation, so you know if there are any loose ends to tie up. Make sure to send them a thank-you note when you get back from vacation to show them you appreciated their work.
3. Tidy up your workspace. Take 15 to 20 minutes to clean up and organize your workspace before leaving on vacation. This includes getting rid of coffee mugs, food items and old notes or research. Put the pens in their place and dust off your desk, lamp and anything else that you use frequently. You could even set out a new notepad and Post-its for when you come back. Your post-vacation-self will thank you when you return from vacation to a clean workspace.
4. Decide whether you will work on vacation. Before you go on vacation, talk to your family or significant other about how much time you will dedicate to work on vacation. You may find that it would be easier to keep up with work if you spend some time on work in the evenings or early morning. Once you decide on a schedule, stick to it. Ask your co-workers to label their emails so that you know if something is high priority while you are out of town. You could do this in a general email to your team members. Remind them of the dates you will be out of the office, and then let them know whether you will be working while on vacation.
5. Create an automated email if you feel it would be helpful. I personally prefer not to create these because the emails get sent to people I may not want them to. Or they go to newsletters I subscribe to, and I end up receiving additional emails as a result. I ask my assistant to check my emails while I'm gone instead. If you do set one up, keep in mind that you don't need to give away any details of your trip. And in most cases, that's not the most professional way to handle it. Simply writing the dates that you will be out of the office is enough. Try extending the dates by one or two days to give you breathing room for following up afterwards. For example, if you will be back in the office by March 20, say something like, "I will be responding to emails after March 22." This gives you some time to get back to work and your workflow without the pressure of everyone wanting to hear from you. Even if you decide to check emails while on vacation, this will alleviate pressure, so that no one will be expecting to hear from you immediately.