Holidays 2 – 6 indepth tips for holiday preparation

The post on holidays received the most comment yet, thanks! And as today’s a holiday why not keep the theme going.

It seems to me that holidays are something of interest, so in anticipation of your next holiday here are the things I do to plan ahead.

Your holiday should be a relaxing reprieve from your probably chaotic work life. And if you don’t prepare for the holiday, your chaotic career will overtake you and when your return you’ll feel even more stressed than you did when you left and vow never to take a break again.

Planning allows you to enjoy your holiday worry-free.  Here are eight things you should do to prepare for your vacation:

1. Create a strategic plan to manage your schedule. Comments on my previous post complained about the stress of getting all their work done before a holiday, and then the stress of catching up and being overwhelmed when they return. I’m certain it’s why some managers on the middle avoid taking vacations altogether.

So how can you deal with the more chaotic than normal jobs…

First first step in the strategy is to ensure you don’t plan your holiday during challenging periods of work (budgets, strategic reviews, advertising pitches, key customer reviews…. find a dead period at work and select that for your time off. Remember NOT to schedule anything important the day before your leave or on the first day back (and block these days in your diary so no one else can schedule meetings for you). See if you can plan the day of your departure sp you can leave work a few hours early the day before, rather than doing what many people do and leave late, adding substantially to your stress level.

Don’t think this will work, then why not some strategic sleight-of-hand if your work schedule is particularly chaotic and you have to be responsive to a challenging boss. How about plan to leave for your trip a day later than you tell your work colleagues, and arrive back ready for work a day earlier than you’ve let people know. This gave me a free day essentially on either end of the holiday to cover the last minute chaos. You could even actually book these days as leave and then credit them back when you work them.

2. Keep colleagues and customers/Clients informed.   The Second step of the strategic plan is to let colleagues know well in advance of your proposed holiday plans. Send a reminder note a week out to give them plenty of advanced warning. That way if they need anything from you, it’s on them to get in touch before you leave. The benefit of this pre-planning strategy is you come across as professional, considerate and service-focused.

Contact high priority clients or customers also a week or two before you leave. Let them know you’ll be out, and ask if there’s anything they need before you leave. For those in sales or customer response it’s a great excuse to connect with your clients; it demonstrates that you’re thinking of them; it gives them enough warning so that you can help them with any issues well before you leave; give them an emergency contact who will be in the office while you are away and who has been briefed on how to handle any potential emergencies. All of this will give your clients (and you) peace of mind that they know you’re on holiday and they know what to do in case of emergency.

3. Start prioritising your workload early, recognising you’ll never get everything done. Set your own clear goals for what you want to finish before you leave, and what’s okay to resume after you return.  Then, look ahead at your calendar. Look ahead at what’s happening at work a month after your vacation so that you can anticipate things clients or colleagues may need and may come looking for right in the middle of your holiday. Before you go on holiday, remind them that you will take care of this when you return form leave.

4. Decide upon and communicate your “rules of engagement” while you’re away. I covered this before, but no hard reinforcing and going into details about what you could do. Ask yourself the following questions before you leave — and let your co-workers and clients know the situation: Will I be reachable by email? Will I be checking voice mail messages? Is my spouse/travel companion on board with me checking into the office every three days, or not at all? What is okay for my team to handle on their own, and what do I want to be informed about?

5 Make checklists. How about a ‘pre-departure checklist’ for your last week, and last day at work. A ‘holiday planning checklist,’  and finally, and an ‘arrival checklist’ for what you know you’ll need to do the first day you return to work. Getting this last one down on paper is critical for reducing stress and enable you to hit work in the most productive way on your return.

6. Use technology to support your holiday. Create a detailed auto-reply email message and outgoing voicemail detailing when you are on leave, when you return and who to contact in the interim for emergencies. Upon your return, you won’t want to listen to 10 angry voicemails from the same person wondering why you’re not returning their calls. Technology is a great enabling tool.

So there you have it, 6 great tips for preparing for a great holiday…. enjoy the sand and sun, or snow soon.

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