Summer is here and if you’re like most professionals, you’re planning to take vacation time to relax and recharge. Taking time off is essential for your physical and mental wellbeing, with studies showing vacations not only contribute to job satisfaction and productivity, but also your overall health. Yet, in today’s always connected environment, many professionals find it difficult to truly disconnect from the demands of the office. If looming deadlines, “urgent” emails and unfinished projects tend to infringe on your time away, these nine steps can help you feel more confident unplugging from the office and less overwhelmed upon your return.
It’s never too early to start planning. Block your calendar and let your team members and others you regularly work with know when you’ll be away, so project timelines and deadlines can be adjusted as needed.
It’s true, “The work will still be there when you get back.” There will always be more to do and new tasks on your to-do list; in most cases, aiming to finish everything will set you up for failure. Create a list of what absolutely must be completed before leaving for vacation (external deadlines, tasks critical for others to move forward, etc.) and put everything else on a list for when you return, communicating this timing to stakeholders as appropriate.
Set and keep boundaries.
In a world where Wi-Fi is almost always available and email is likely on your phone, work-life boundaries are often challenging to uphold. Prior to leaving, determine if and when you will be available while away, and communicate this information to your team, manager and others you work with, as appropriate.
Manage your inbox.
Especially if you prefer an empty inbox, it can be difficult to avoid checking email while away. Help stick to your previously defined boundaries by turning off email and chat notifications on your phone. You may also consider setting rules in Outlook to ensure higher priority emails are flagged, and newsletters and other non-urgent communications don’t build up in your main inbox while you’re away.
Prep your backup contact.
In addition to identifying a designated backup, set them up for success by clearly aligning on expectations. Discuss what types of questions/issues should be escalated to you while you’re out, as well as the best way to deliver non-urgent updates and information upon your return.
Align with your team.
While the extent of your preparation will be dependent on the length of your vacation, spend time capturing and communicating necessary information before leaving. This could be where to find documents, issues that may arise and who to go to for questions. As part of this preparation, ensure you’re also getting team members’ input on what to include, ensuring everyone is aligned and providing you peace of mind.
Facilitate a smooth return.
Block a few meeting-free hours for your first day back to catch up on emails and check in with your team. During this time, plan to revisit the to-do list you wrote prior to leaving, and review the non-urgent information captured by your back-up contact. With the right preparation, you’ll have a better idea of where to focus your energy and priorities upon your return.
Provide a clear out of office message.
Set an out of office that shares the specific information necessary for people to move forward without you. This includes the dates you will be away, who to contact in your absence (this person may also have the authority to escalate to you if it’s within your set boundaries), and when they can expect to hear from you upon return.
Help others enjoy their own time away.
Of course, you won’t be the only one needing to take a break this summer. Be mindful of how you can support your colleagues and respect their set boundaries while they’re away, ensuring everyone is able to return refreshed and at their full professional capacity.
No matter where your summer plans take you, the right mindset and preparation can help you get the most out of your vacation days. Now set that out of office and enjoy your time away!