List and prioritise
Whether you are the type of person to slink off on holiday without telling colleagues or you are still sending emails from the departure lounge, there is a better way to leave the office before holidays. Everyone deserves a break and holiday prep should start at least two weeks before you go, says executive coach Lucy Gernon.
“Make a list of the work tasks swirling in your head. Rank them in order of importance and delivery date and then ruthlessly prioritise,” says Gernon. “People put themselves under immense pressure with this undeliverable to-do list before going on holiday. Then they go off feeling defeated,” she says. Focus on the priorities only.
Tell colleagues and clients
Telling people you are taking leave can feel risky – won’t they just send you more work? The trick is to notify them well in advance. “Tell them you are going a couple of weeks in advance and then pull information from them about what they need,” says Gernon. The alternative is to wait for a slew of last-minute requests to hit your desk the week before you go.
Don’t want to be still at your desk the night before you travel? If the answer is “No”, then build in a buffer. “If you are due to go on Friday, tell everyone you are finishing on Thursday,” says Gernon. “Tell them everything that needs your input has to be with you by Monday.” This prevents a last-minute deluge and should give you a final day to yourself to mop up and plan ahead.
There is nothing more effective at killing post-holiday zen than a mound of meetings mushrooming in your calendar, crowding out the things you need to get done. Before you go, look at what is required on your return so that you know what you are coming back to. “Block book time in your calendar for the week you get back for the tasks you know you will need to get done,” says Gernon. This allows you to switch off, knowing the week of your return is under control. At the very least, block out the morning of your return. Note your passwords somewhere safe to counter holiday amnesia.
A mid-year break is an opportunity to reset. Spend some time the day before you depart on tidying up. “There is nothing worse than walking back into the office with paper all over your desk and a filthy screen,” says Gernon. Tackle your inbox too, deleting and unsubscribing from those newsletters you never read. “It’s a chance for you to come back and start again. You can have that ‘new year’ energy. Why not set yourself up for success?”
Out of office
There is no greater feeling than switching on that “out of office” message. All the better to turn it on starting the day before you go and finishing the day after your return. This will stop surprise meetings.
Don’t be the martyr who includes their holiday contact details either. “No, no, no. I don’t care who you are. Come up with another business process,” says Gernon. Being contactable on your holiday defeats the purpose of going on one. “If you give out your number, you are telling yourself that you can’t really switch off because there might be a call. If someone rings you, you will resent it,” says Gernon. Taking a complete break from work sets a good example. It gives others permission to do the same.