Vacations are important. Spending time away from the hustle and bustle of the office, last minute requests, office politics and late nights is crucial to retaining any semblance of sanity and to prevent burn-out.
All high-level sports stars can see the benefits of rest so as a high performance business worker, so should you.
Last Thursday, I set my out-of-office assistant, shut down my lap-top and stepped onto a flight to Mexico for a well-deserved week in the sun. However, before I could do that, I tried to cram 10 days of work into the four I worked.
Not good. So here are some best practices I’ve gleaned from that last week. Hopefully these will ensure you go on holiday as refreshed as you intend to return:
1. Inform your clients two weeks in advance that you’ll be taking significant time off.
2. Inform your clients again, a week in advance that you’ll be taking significant time off.
3. Make sure you set deadlines for client deliverables at least two days before your last day in the office. This will give you some leeway and make sure you aren’t in office until 9 or 10pm every night before you leave.
4. Schedule handover meetings with everyone on your teams. Make sure people know what they need to do and how to do it while you’re away.
5. Write a handover document:
5a. Break up each client’s account into projects and go into too much detail on each project.
5b. Assign a lead and back-up for each project.
5c. Provide contact details for the client (who should know who is working on their account – see 1 and 2)
6. Let go. As one of my new colleagues says, we’re all control freaks but sometimes you just have to let go.
7. Write your out-of-office auto reply (Outlook: Tools > Out of Office Assistant) and proof thoroughly. I use the following template:
Thanks for your email – it’s <Date of your last day> and I’ll be out of the office on vacation until <First business day you return>.
I will get back to you as soon as possible when I’m back in the office but if you require urgent assistance, please contact either <Contact One> or <Contact Two>.
8. Enjoy! Lock the BlackBerry in the safe and only check it a couple of times a day. When I was away, I would check mine while reserving our cabana at 6:30am (updated: my view below) and then when we got ready for dinner 12 hours later.
God, is there anything sweeter than setting your out-of-office assistant for a vacation?