You are lying on a golden beach staring at the azure waters and looking forward to the day stretching before you, you’ve waited months for this break and saved up the money to get you there, so why on earth would you switch on your mobile and start downloading your work emails? Yet for many this is the reality and it’s a habit that can be hard to break. Here are some tips to help you have a break from work and not work on your break.
Set the boundaries: Experience has taught me that you are your own worst enemy. If you set a precedent of always being contactable, answering your emails straight away whilst on your summer holiday and keeping up the general pace of work from your sun lounger then your colleagues, clients and boss will come to expect that as the norm. If you, like many others really wish to come back to work refreshed then you need to set the boundaries from the outset. The first thing to do is to inform your key stakeholders well in advance of the dates that you will be away, ensuring that you have planned your holiday to not only suit you but also the work projects that you are involved in. Every company and role has a period of downtime which isn’t as busy as others, so if you can avoid going when it isn’t convenient that will help matters. Keep repeating to those around that you will be away and the dates that are involved. Your colleagues will forget and feign any knowledge that you are off on holiday if you don’t keep hammering it home. You then need to tell them that you are going away and you aren’t contactable for that period.
Prepare: Setting the boundaries is great advice but only if you have prepared thoroughly for your holiday absence. It’s no good starting the process even the week before you go away, no one will thank you for that. You need to put plans into action even a month before you go on leave. Look at the work calendar and work out what key meetings and deadlines you will be absent for on your leave. Consider moving key meetings or delegating them to other staff during the period you are away. If there is a deadline that you need to meet then you need to think about how you are going to fulfil it, perhaps the work can be done before you go or sent in early, or if it depends on others you can do your part and make sure you pass on your section to your colleagues before you go, giving them plenty of time to discuss it and to make any required amendments. If you are delegating some work ensure you leave plenty of time to do a thorough handover to make sure your colleague understands what is required.
Perspective: Even if you are the boss of the business you need to take some perspective. If you have prepared appropriately for your annual leave and you trust your team then you need to take a step back and understand that the world is not going to stop whilst you are away. If you have briefed all the relevant stakeholders the chances are that if there are any delays or decisions that can’t be made until you get back then they will either have pre-empted this before you go away or they can wait. The truth is everyone is replaceable and that means you too!
Re-fresh your energy levels: We all know that pre-holiday feeling when you simply feel that you are on the brink of exhaustion and you can’t carry on. Remind yourself of the reasons why you are going on a break and if you are away with your loved ones channel your energy into those relationships because we all know that when we work too hard it’s those around us that suffer. This is your time to spend with them. Take time for yourself too, sleep more, take time to unwind with a good book, take some exercise, go on those excursions you have always wanted to. Next week you will be back in the office and you will regret that you didn’t take the opportunity to focus on yourself.
Ditch the phone: The sad truth is that most of us are glued to our smart phones 24/7 but even if you consider surfing on the internet part of your regular downtime then do think about putting a block on your work emails until you get back to the office. If you put an out of office message on alerting recipients that you won’t be picking up emails whilst you are away, with the name of an alternative contact for emergencies then everything is covered. Pick up a book instead or leave your phone in your holiday accommodation and only allow yourself to look at it first and last thing each day.
If you can follow just some of these tips then you’ll find the business won’t come to a grinding halt without you, you will return to the office refreshed and ready to work again and you will have spent some quality time focusing on the ones you love and care about. Happy holidays!