How to Prepare for Time Off and Time Back
We all want time off and at the same time we also dread all of the work that will be waiting for us upon our return. And so we work feverishly to get caught up and finish things up before going away in the hopes that we won’t feel burdened by things hanging over our heads and so that we won’t be interrupted by people needing things while we’re away.
Then, there is the haunting feeling we get about 24 hours before we return, worrying about how many emails and tasks might be waiting for us. We fight the urge to check our email and jump back in to work mode instead of savoring that last day.
So what can we do to manage all of the angst for both leaving and returning? Is it possible to for us to do this without overwhelming ourselves? Yes, it is.
First, ask for support from a friend or even your boss. For some reason, we forget that we have support and we seem to think that we must get all of our work done alone, in a cave. We don’t. Let your colleagues know in advance that you’ll be out of the office and that you’re working to have everything handled at least two weeks in advance. Then, if there is something that you may need a colleague to handle while you’re away, ask them if they can extend a hand while you’re gone. People won’t mind as much as you imagine and it’s highly likely that they will take time off too and that will give you a chance to return the support. Ah, teamwork makes the dreamwork!
Second, look at your calendar and start anticipating which things you will absolutely need to complete and which things you can re-negotiate if needed. Here’s the other illusion we tend to live under; we act as if everything we are working on has immovable deadlines attached to them. If you really pay attention, almost nothing does. Do we want to get our work done? Yes, we do. Does it all have to be done today or within the next two weeks? Probably not. So, stop working just long enough to take an inventory and to see what you absolutely need to get handled and focus on those things.
Third, plan for your return. I cannot emphasize this enough. On the day you return avoid at all costs scheduling back-to-back meetings and having your schedule full of calls. You will want the time to process your inbox (both paper and email). You will want time to check-in with your team and get acclimated to the latest and greatest. You will need at least the first four hours of the day to do this. Scheduling on top of this much-needed space is what creates most of the dread of leaving in the first place. When you do the review of what needs to be handled over the next two weeks, look at that trusty old calendar for the day you return and block that baby. And, look at that week you return and be sure you have space in place to handle everything else.
Last (this one is the most important), stop listening to the thoughts that say you need to worry yourself about being away. I know, we all want to be needed, and you are. What’s also true though is that your catastrophizing thoughts about being gone will likely never come true.
The only thing to do now is to enjoy your vacation!