Sunshine beams through your office window and the days are getting longer – summer is finally here! This is the perfect time to start planning a vacation or staycation and use that coveted paid time off. While taking time off work offers many physical and mental health benefits, most Americans let their PTO days go unused. In 2018, we left a record number of 768 million vacation days on the table. Internalizing hustle culture and feeling guilty and afraid can lead workers to avoid taking the breaks they deserve.
Although submitting your time off request can be nerve-wracking, we want to encourage you to spend time away from work this summer. If you prepare yourself, your team, and your boss adequately before you leave, you’ll have nothing to worry about while you’re away.
Set yourself up for a successful and stress-free vacation with our top tips:
1. Prioritize your current workload.
A few weeks before you leave, put together a to-do list of all the tasks you need to complete. Once all of you’ve put all these action items on paper, rank them by importance and priority. Put the highest priority projects at the top of your list and continue all the way down to the small tasks that you could leave until you return, just in case you can’t finish everything. This will help you focus your time on what you absolutely must complete as opposed to the tasks that you could delegate or the small items that can wait until you’re back at work.
The earlier you start planning for your time off the better. This will ensure that you have ample time to get as much of your work done before you leave as possible. Even if you can’t cross everything off your to-do list before you leave, at least you’ll know if you need to ask for additional support. You’ll also have an idea of your workload upon your return so you can plan accordingly.
2. Check in with your boss and colleagues.
After prioritizing your workload and checking items off your to-do list, you’ll be well equipped to fill in your boss and coworkers on the status of all your projects. Schedule a check-in with your manager or supervisor to update them on what you accomplished and what still needs to get done. If possible, organize all of this information into a spreadsheet so they can refer back to it in your absence. Make sure you share your plan for your unfinished tasks – whether that’s delegating them to a colleague or leaving low priority items for your return.
Don’t forget to make time to meet with your coworkers, too. Ask them if they need anything from you before you leave and fill them in on projects and deadlines that might be relevant to them. If you plan on delegating any tasks, leave ample time to review the tasks with your colleague and provide the resources they’ll need to accomplish them.
3. Delegate tasks appropriately.
Assigning work to your colleagues can be a great tool to ensure that important responsibilities get taken care of while you’re out of office. However, successful delegation requires careful thought and planning. Before assigning someone a task, consider their role and whether the task aligns with their current skillset or if it would enhance their career development. They’ll be much more likely to embrace the assignment (and succeed at it!) if it aligns with their skills and interests.
Once you’ve decided who will receive each task, take the time to outline why you decided to give them this specific assignment. This provides context and transfers the ownership of the task to them. Most importantly, make sure they understand the key deliverables or outcomes associated with the task and share relevant resources and documents.
4. Communicate your availability clearly.
Before you head out, decide whether you’ll be reachable or not and make sure to communicate this to your team and clients. Do you plan on checking email occasionally or will you be completely unavailable? Briefly outline your availability in your automated email response message and include the specific dates you’ll be away.
Ask your coworkers who is willing to serve as your primary contact for urgent matters that could come up during your absence. Provide their contact information in your automated email message so clients can reach out to them directly.
5. Disconnect and make the most of your time off!
Now that you sorted out all the important logistics, it’s time to enjoy your vacation. You can relax knowing that you completed your high priority projects and that the rest of your tasks are in good hands. If you end up spending your time out of office by stressing about what’s happening at work, or worse, working on vacation, that defeats the purpose of taking a break.
Our brains need down time to recharge, so use this time away from work to rest and be present. By truly unplugging and disconnecting from work, you’ll return feeling much more motivated, creative, and inspired!
So, go ahead and put those OOO days on your calendar, set up your autoreply, and start packing. You will be so glad you did!