Just like money squirreled away for future use, so too do we accumulate personal days to spend away from our jobs.
These breaks work best when you truly detach from all official work.
That’s harder to do these days with many people working from home.
So how do you fully enjoy well-earned time off?
You prepare like you would for any other big event.
8 Weeks Out
Make sure your PTO is on all shared corporate calendars as VACATION.
Include weekends, even if they don’t count toward time off. This sends a clear message you are unavailable.
Next, email key stakeholders for ongoing or planned projects to alert them that you’ll be incommunicado on specific dates in a couple of months.
4 Weeks Out
Take a close look at all deadlines you’re responsible for in the coming weeks.
Make sure you can still meet milestones or have a plan to pick up the slack.
Spend off-work hours creating an action plan for your time off, whether heading out of town or to your local hardware store.
This will help motivate you to get things done at work.
1 Week Out
Send everyone another email reminder, this time outlining project statuses.
Do not take on any new assignments/roles unless they can be completed within a few hours and won’t compromise other deadlines.
Otherwise, agree to start them upon your return.
Work aggressively to keep up, even get a little ahead in the final days.
1 Day Out
Send one more round of email to everyone with project updates and expectations while you’re gone.
Consider setting up internal auto-replies so anyone that contacts you knows not to expect a reply until you return.
External Out of Office messages are controversial. You’re not just alerting people you know, but some you don’t, that you aren’t around. That includes cybercriminals.
Same goes for phone messages, if you still rely on voice mail.
1 Hour Out
In any auto-reply, do not list an alternative contact on email or voice mail unless absolutely required.
Providing such contacts implies someone else can and will handle any and all requests while you’re gone. Rarely is that the case.
In a true emergency, have a designated hitter arranged ahead of time. This is someone you trust to handle a crisis. Have them contact you ONLY if a situation escalates—and jobs or contracts are suddenly on the line.
Ease into Relaxation
It takes time to decompress, especially if you work in a demanding, high-stress environment.
Physically remove yourself from devices or spaces that signal “work.”
Do not check email, voice mail or anything else related to your job.
Instead, focus for a change on you and your friends and loved ones. They’ve earned some direct attention too.
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