I’m headed out on vacation next week and can’t wait for the opportunity to unplug and relax with my home team. It’s a challenge to get away though, because the to-do list is always too long and the email inbox too full. I’m committed to take time with my family, so what can I do to ensure that I’m fully available for them during this time?

It starts by being 100% responsible for where I find myself this Saturday – either I will be “ready,” or I’ll still be working and unable to unplug. It’s easy for me to feel victimized when I find myself working on break. Truthfully, a better way is in my control.

At ConvergenceCoaching, we are big planners and developers of process. You won’t be surprised to know that we have a specific process for getting ready for vacation. With the summer vacation season starting, I’m excited to share this with you today. Here goes:

  • As soon as you know about your vacation, put it on your calendar. Be sure the time is blocked fully so that it shows as busy. Notify your Supervisor. We are a highly collaborative team, so I always run my vacation plans by my two Partners and our Firm Administrator to identify any conflicts when scheduling
  • About a month to six weeks before your vacation, take a big picture look at known projects and client needs from now until after your vacation. Consider if anything needs to be accelerated or delayed to accommodate your time off. If so, reset expectations NOW, don’t wait until the eleventh hour
  • Three weeks before your vacation, add a notification to your email signature as a P.S. message. Mine says “P.S. I will be heading out on a well-needed family vacation from 6/28 – 7/6, returning 7/7. If you need anything before then, please let me know!”
  • Also, at three weeks prior, start telling individuals verbally and in writing about your vacation. You’ll want to do so:
    • Internally – we publish it in our weekly Work-to-Do email to remind team members of our time away. We also set expectations for the projects or relationships that others will need to mind while we’re gone
    • Externally notify clients that you’ll be gone. You probably won’t tell every client; however, if you’re in the middle of an important engagement, proactively inform the client about time away and who to contact in your absence. Any “high needs” clients should be put on notice to consider what they will need from you in advance
  • During this pre-vacation period, watch out for commitments or “yeses” that might interfere with enjoying your time off. Develop some “no” phraseology that you’re comfortable with. “I’m worried that project might not fit since I’ll be out for 10 days in early July. Could we push it to later in July or ask Judy to get involved instead?” (For more on saying no gracefully, check out Tamera’s The Art of Saying No blog).
  • I like to think of putting my projects to “sleep” during my last two weeks before vacation. I want to get things to a finished state or at least in a mode where they can manage without me. Often to make that happen, I have to talk to the client and in that communication, can remind them about my vacation.
  • The week before you go out on vacation, identify someone to put in your out of office message and get their permission to do so. Have a brief discussion about how they can contact you for emergencies and what might constitute an emergency. Don’t assume they know what to come to you with! Be 100% responsible here, too, so you aren’t disappointed when they reach out to you too often or don’t contact you in the case of a serious emergency
  • The day before your vacation, send a handoff email that outlines what’s sleeping and what will require attention. Think of this as “who has the ball while I’m out” and with this email, you officially hand off the ball
  • Before leaving for vacation, turn on your email out-of-office notifier and record a vacation voicemail message
  • Now go enjoy your vacation!

There are always surprises or unknowns that arise while we’re on vacation. If you resist planning, you might be skeptical that this approach is going to head off the interruptions that find you during time away. In our experience, we have found that the more you plan ahead, communicate transparently, set clear expectations, and enroll the support of your team members and your clients, the fewer emergencies that arise.

I hope you’re planning some recharge time this summer and that when you do, you’ll pilot our vacation planning techniques. Commit to fully unplug from work so you come back refreshed and renewed for the opportunities ahead!