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All Work & No Play = Lower Productivity

This week when I flipped my calendar forward to the month of May, I happily saw the little palm tree I had drawn a few months back signifying my vacation to Maui! While I am beyond excited to escape this damp, dark weather, I realized I only have a little over a week before I leave.

Far too often, we schedule trips and vacations to get away and relax. Lets remember that a true vacation does not mean work, work and more work, just with a more beautiful view and a mai tai in your hand. Taking a vacation should mean powering down your laptop, turning off your phone, and yes, relaxing!

It is only natural to find it difficult to relax when you are constantly thinking about all of your work related to-d0’s. For that reason we’d like to recommend a few tips so you can actually enjoy your vacation. Consider the following:

1. Stand Your Ground & Limit Temptation: We’ve all seen those people at the airport or even laying out at the pool, typing away on their laptops or taking conference call after conference call. Think of it like this, if you are trying to eat healthy, don’t go to the grocery store and load up on a bunch of cookies. Why? Because if you don’t buy them in the first place, they won’t sit in your pantry taunting you, and thus you won’t eat them. Same goes for bringing your work with you on vacation. You can’t be tempted to use what you don’t bring. Limit as many distractions as possible.

2. Remember: The World Will Not End: Have you ever found yourself thinking, “but if I leave the office even for a few days everything is going to crash and burn and nothing will get done”? This is where delegating is extremely important. Prepare your colleagues/manager with any and all necessary information. This may even mean printing out instructions. Make sure people who reach out to you during your absence know who to contact instead:

A. Set-up your voicemail so that if anyone calls, they will known the dates you will be absent from the office and will be directed to whomever you appoint as the next in command should they have any urgent questions.

B. Create an OOF (out of office) email, again, stating the dates you will be gone and the name and contact information of the appropriate party they can reach in your absence. We realize emergencies to arise, and as such, be very clear which situations warrant interrupting your vacation. Remember, people have the tendency to think their situation is most important and should require immediate attention, even when it may be a minor issue that CAN wait.

3. Pony Up the Dough: If you are traveling with someone and you know yourself well enough to realize you may have difficulty overcoming the temptation to check that email or make that call, it’s time to engage an accountability partner and raise the stakes. Set a dollar amount, and tell your travel buddy each time they catch you doing something work-related, you have to pay up.

4. Transition Back to the Daily Grind: There’s nothing like coming back from vacation to see your inbox flooded with emails and your voicemail light blinking incessantly. Regardless of how well you were prepared for your departure and return to reality, it can be an overwhelming feeling. So, where to start?

A. Dedicate the first day to getting back into the swing of things. This means not scheduling any meetings, not making any new calls, and not starting any new projects. Go through your emails and voicemail and start capturing the tasks that require the most attention. Once you have your list, it’s time to prioritize. Simply write a number next to each item (EX: 1 being most important), or place them in priority order on your task list and then get to work, checking things off as you go. Keep in mind, when everything is a priority, nothing is a priority.

B. Put away any items you brought with you, whether they are for home or work. If it is work-related, put all those materials in your work bag, ready to go for the morning.

As far as home is concerned, it is too often we leave our suitcase sitting out for weeks on end before we actually put items away or start a load of laundry. It’s like ripping off a Band-aid. Just get it over with and done.

Remember, a vacation is supposed to be fun. A time to rejuvinate. Do it well and you’ll be more productive at work upon your return. Keep in mind the importance of a positive work-life balance. You will be glad you did. For more organized travel tips, check out Smead Organomics “Preparing at Work for Your Vacation” post.

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