In the midst of summer, do you find yourself physically at the office but mentally already lying on the beach or tenting in the mountains? You can’t wait to leave all your responsibilities and meetings behind and go somewhere far away for at least a week?
Before you start packing your suitcase, though, consider something else: the chaos you will find, when you come back from your holiday. You probably know it no less than your dream vacation itself: you sit at your desk, your phone immediately starts ringing, your e-mail is busting and your colleagues seem like they couldn’t wait for you to come back so that they can tell you about everything that happened while you were gone and give you a few more tasks while they’re at it… just as you were wondering how to get ahead on the things you couldn’t finish before running to the beach a week ago.
Did you know that with just a little planning ahead you could have office bliss instead of office madness when you come back? Check out exactly what you need to do and when you need to do it and don’t forget: a good holiday and the work afterwards are defined by the time before your vacation.
1 month before your holiday
- Notify your colleagues about how long you will be out of the office and make arrangements with a person who will fill in for you and whom everyone can contact while you are away. (Be ready to give back the favour when it’s time for your colleague’s holiday.)
- Look through your and your team’s tasks. It’s important to know what will be happening while you are gone so you have enough time to plan your work. The goal is to finish in advance everything that is due during your holiday so you don’t interfere with your colleague’s work while you are out of office. And leave the non-urgent things for later so you can tackle them with fresh energy and a rested mind.
2 weeks before your holiday
- Look through the upcoming tasks again and identify the ones that have priority. Before a holiday, you may be filled with motivation to do everything. Don’t fall for that trap: in most cases, trying to do so leads to a lot of stress and a mountain of unfinished tasks in which you will be buried when you come back.
- Make a plan for the last two weeks and the time afterwards when you will be back at the office. Write down exactly what you will get done on each day, leaving the last two days before the holiday and the first two days after it as free of appointments as possible. This way you will have time to finish something at the last minute before you go and work through the mountain of e-mails that will await you on your arrival. Follow your plan as strictly as possible.
1 week before your holiday
- Take one or two hours to talk to the colleague who is going to be filling in for you while you are gone. Take them through your current tasks, your progress on them and what they will have to do while you are gone in as much detail as possible. I advise you to leave only small finishing tasks and communication with other people about the status of your tasks for your colleague until you come back. Don’t expect of them to take over your whole job – your colleague will neither be able to take over everything and do it the way you would, nor will they have the time to do it, as they have tasks of their own to take care of.
- Make a list of your current tasks which will serve as a guide for your colleague while you are away. Leave it on a visible place – ideally somewhere on your desk or directly on the wall next to it (if it’s painted with Escreo, you can write freely on it and your colleague will be able to leave notes on your list).
1 day before your holiday
- Remind your colleagues that tomorrow you are out of the office and tell them how long you will be away and who will be filling in for you. Also, let them know if you will be available and to what extent. My advice to you is to not raise expectations too high so you don’t end up taking the office to the beach with you instead of resting and disconnecting from your work environment.
- Set up an automated e-mail response, containing information about how long you are out of the office and the colleague people can contact in case of emergency. I don’t advise you to write your mobile phone number in the automated response. Most people’s idea of an “emergency” can be an unpleasant surprise for you. (My advice comes from personal experience – I still remember the summer around ten years ago, when I was explaining the documentation for an auction to multiple different people while sailing through the canals in Venice, although I could have been far less diligent and put my colleague’s phone number instead of my mobile phone in the automated e-mail.)
- Take a last look at your tasks, make changes to the plan for the time after your holiday and the list for your substitute if needed, so the information is up to date and… leave the office with a clear conscience and on time so that you will manage to pack your bags.
The first 1-2 days after your holiday
- Many studies and experiments have shown that in the first days after a holiday we are not as productive as usual. So, don’t stress and don’t try doing as many things as you would normally do. Accept that you will take it slow and start with the easier tasks. The planning before leaving should have also helped with freeing up your first few days so that you can gradually come back to your working rhythm and not at once.
- Meet again with your colleague who has been filling in for you and find out what has happened in your absence. Did they talk to anyone on your behalf? Is there anything important you need to know before going about your usual work? Don’t forget to thank them for their help and, in case you have brought them some seashells, a magnet or any other small souvenir from your vacation which you know they will like, you probably won’t have to worry about finding a substitute for your next holidays. 🙂
- Go through all of your upcoming tasks – not only for the next few days but also for a longer period of time, for example until the end of the year. Take advantage of the fact that your mind is still fresh and rested and make a realistic re-evaluation of your goals and planned work before the daily grind begins again. Think about how you are moving forward on your set goals, whether the things you do every day move you closer or on the contrary – further away from them. Is there anything you can change? Maybe during your vacation, you came up with some good ideas and now the time has come to make them happen? Take at least 1-2 hours to look at your goals and plans – you may be pleasantly surprised by the results.
The point of a holiday is to rest and reduce stress, not cause more of it. Take care of this before your holiday begins and you will thank us afterwards.
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