How to Manage Your Vacation (So It Doesn’t Manage You)

Does this sound like you?  The week before you go on vacation, you’re as frantic as guys running the bulls in Pamplona, trying to do everything that won’t get done while you’re gone.  While you’re gone, you check in so often, it doesn’t really feel like you’re on vacation.

Then when you get back, the work is piled so high, it takes weeks to dig out.  By the time you get caught up, you’re exhausted and feel like you need a…vacation.  You conclude that vacation time is barely worth all the hassle it generates.

It’s not just about vacations.  The same problem occurs any time you’re out of the office:  Conferences, training, visits to customers, anything that takes you out of the office for big chunks of time.

This isn’t good for anyone.  You don’t come back from vacations recharged and regenerated, because you’re so frazzled before, during, and after your time off.  Not good for your family either; by the end of the vacation, they’re probably not speaking to you, since you ruined their trip.

It’s also bad for your direct reports or others on your team,because even though you’re trying to make sure things run smoothly in your absence, all the upheaval makes everyone else miserable.

It can also be bad for your customers,

You need a more proactive approach, so here are three strategies that should help.

1) Anticipate.  Do everything you can to clear off your desk before you go, and start this at least two weeks before getaway day.  Start this process sooner, and you’ll do a better job of getting it done.

2) Ask for help.  Explain to others (your assistant, direct reports, team members) what you’re trying to do, and enlist their help and support.  Emphasize your Purpose by telling them that their helping you will serve the customer better, and permit better customer service if you return refreshed.

To implement these two strategies, you must develop leadership in those around you.  As a leader you should be doing this anyway, but vacations are opportunities for enhancing your direct reports’ development.

3) Resist the temptation to do work or work-related things while you’re on vacation.  Part of your planning, and asking for help, should mean that they’ll be able to survive without you.  (That’s a scary thought!)

I realize there are exceptions, like emergencies, but whenever possible, you should avoid work-related activities while on vacation

This includes not reading business-related books, magazines, journals, blogs, or websites.  Use the vacation to do reading that’s totally unrelated to your work.  That’s how you return refreshed.

One Final Thought:  This isn’t just about you, it’s about what’s best for your organization and its customers.  Therefore, you need to let your direct reports and team members know that THEY should use these same strategies for THEIR vacations.

So you as the leader should be making THEIR vacations as smooth as possible, which may mean you’ll have to pitch in and help THEM do some of their work.  And it means not requiring them to answer emails, write reports, etc. from the beach, ski slopes, or wherever your direct reports are when on vacation.  

This will tell your direct reports that you’re focused on the Noble Purpose, and that you care about them.  It will also develop their leadership.

But the first thing you should do is model the correct behavior by applying these strategies to your own vacation.

So wherever you go on vacation, no matter what season, and even if you just stay close to home, enjoy that vacation.  You earned it.

What will you do to manage your vacation?

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