This career advice post originally appears in my Work In Progress blog for ForbesWoman:
Happy Spring! Happy Passover! Happy Easter! Some people will be taking time off this week for the holidays. In NYC where I live, public school students are on break, so some working parents may choose to take time off since schools are closed. What I always remember about working a busy job and taking time off is the crush of returning to work. I would almost not enjoy my vacation as much because of the catch-up I would invariably have to do once I returned. Here are three strategies for enjoying time off guilt-free:
Block out Catch-up time for your normal work week, not the weekend or night before
Make yourself unavailable on your Outlook for your first day back. Use this time to sift through emails, put out fires relating to your absence and catching up with colleagues. Block out time later in the week as well so you don’t overschedule yourself and you build in time for things that will invariably come to your attention after your return. Many people will jump onto email the night or weekend before to get a head start on their week. Consider instead dedicating the night or weekend before to settle back into your personal routine – your exercise, sleep, even diet may need some readjusting.
Block out Finish time before you leave, but during your normal work week, not late nights
Many people stay late almost every night in the week preceding a vacation, effectively working their vacation week in advance. You already know you’re going to want to finish things before you leave. So well before your vacation (as soon as the vacation is confirmed in the calendar!) make yourself unavailable on your Outlook for significant time during that preceding week and possibly earlier weeks, specifically to dedicate time to finishing projects. If you don’t dedicate time to finishing projects proactively, your day-to-day work will thwart your best intentions. You will end up scrambling, meaning late nights and less productive output.
Have a clear back-up plan that doesn’t involve you
You know the typical questions you get relating to your specific role, but invariably we become the go-to person for other things – how to deal with a specific client or how to unjam the printer. Spend the next 30 days keeping a log of the questions you get asked. Create your own personal FAQ, which you can then leave with a trusted colleague or assistant. For broader issues as opposed to specific questions, designate a colleague to handle and actually give that person the authority to make decisions on your behalf. This means, you’ll want to debrief them and coach them before you leave, so this is additional time you build into your calendar well in advance. You should inform your boss of your plans, so build this discussion into your calendar as well. You can always give your colleague the scenarios in which you can be called while you’re away, but by delegating most of this, you minimize the disruption.
A vacation is meant to be enjoyed, not double your work week when you return. With prep work and the discipline to proactively reserve time before and after the vacation, you can get the extra work done during your actual work time and not on your vacation.