Scheduling time off recharges your batteries and avoids job burnout. But return to a crisis or a huge backlog of work and all that positive mojo melts faster than ice cubes in a poolside drink. Fortunately, a little planning ensures your rejuvenated attitude lasts beyond the morning status meeting. Five people at Quill came up with the following tips to provide peace of mind while you’re away.
1. Create a to-do list.
Meg and Jennifer suggest starting a “to do” list a couple of weeks before you leave. That way, you’re not in a rush to complete the list. Also, cross off the items that happen to get completed before you go. The final week, expand on the detail of each item so your back-up(s) have a complete picture of your current workload. Be as specific as possible and try to break out each item by tasks. For instance, write down:
- The steps to follow
- Who to contact if there are questions
- What the timing is
- Potential hazards on the horizon
- Short cuts that might help speed the job along
It’s wise to review the document with your back-up(s) a week before you leave. Then they can ask questions and you’ll be sure your projects are in good hands.
2. Update your Outlook calendar.
Deborah recommends putting your vacation on your Outlook calendar so co-workers see it when scheduling meetings. It’s best to block out the entire days you’ll be gone. Using an online calendar has the added advantage of showing when you’ll return.
3. Leave time to finalize projects.
Another idea Deborah offered is to set aside one to two hours a day to finalize outstanding projects three days before your vacation starts. That way, this important task won’t get lost in the day-to-day rush of pressing issues. You might even want to do the same thing when you get back. Go ahead and block out an hour a day on your calendar the first couple of days when you return to catch up on emails, return calls, etc.
4. Alert key business contacts.
Jessica suggests you reach out to your important business partners at least one week before you leave and tell them you’ll be gone. They may want to wrap up items before you leave. At the very least, provide your contacts with the appropriate people to contact if something urgent comes up. This helps avoid surprises for everyone involved and keeps your business relationships productive.
5. Leave an OOO voicemail message.
Many people forget to update their voicemail before they leave. That could be a big mistake because when an issue is urgent a phone call is often the preferred communication channel. Keep your message short and to the point. Include the name(s) of your back-ups along and their contact information. You should also provide the date you’re back in the office so callers know when they can reach you. For more OOO voicemail tips, see this recent article at the Quill Café.
6. Clean up emails before you leave.
This helpful idea comes from Karen. Pre-vacation is the ideal time to clean up your in-box so it’s less overwhelming when you return. Take an hour or so to:
- Finish items in your “tasks” folder
- File old emails
- Delete emails that aren’t needed
It’s also helpful to mark important emails as “unread.” That way, when you return to the office after a couple of weeks, you’ll remember to read them a 2nd time.
7. Tidy up your workspace.
When you’ve got all the “to do” lists hashed out, key contacts notified, and your voicemail and email updated, Karen also suggests you take a few minutes to clean up your desk. It’s nice to come back to a neat area. Plus, others may need to borrow your desk when you’re gone.
8. Leave a fun OOO sign.
Want to get into the vacation spirit a little early? Karen suggests leaving a fun out of office sign at your desk. It can be as simple as a beach picture with a little note or some other cool destination. Just remember to keep it professional. After all, it is the workplace. As an added bonus, your sign will make co-workers jealous.
9. Review emails before returning.
OK, so this tip isn’t something to do before you leave, but it can be very helpful just before you return. Both Deborah and Jennifer go online and check their work emails before they return. They take time to delete redundant messages out of email streams. That allows them to focus on the latest communications when they return.
Do you have a few tips of your own? We’d love to hear them! Jot them down in the comments below so we can all work smarter and make life easier when going on vacation.