WORK-LIFE BALANCE

How Smart People Get Ready for Being Away From Work

Holidays and spring break are upon us. Here, Inc. columnists share how to keep a few days off from equaling mountains of work when you return.
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It's been a long hard winter, which was great for productivity. But now that the weather is nicer and spring holidays are here, a little time away from the office is warranted. For many people, a few days away can bring almost as much stress as not leaving at all. Sure, the days on the sunny beach are great. But not if you come back from vacation to piles of extra work and problems that take you weeks to resolve.

Whenever I take time off, I set up a checklist for the week prior to my trip. On that list are four categories and specific actions I take before the vacation.

1. Things I must complete before I leave. I give these items absolute priority and focus to finish.

2. Things I must delegate before I leave. I make sure that my team knows exactly what must be accomplished and has the tools and resources to make it happen.

3. Things I must defer before I leave. This is everything important that can wait until I get back. I make sure I let everyone involved know that this won't be addressed until my return. By managing expectations, I won't be bothered with anyone's panic during the trip.

4. Things I will handle while away. Sure, it's nice not to do any work while taking time off, but some things need to be resolved, and I find it's better to deal with them on vacation then worry about them during the trip.

This efficient approach not only makes sure everything is appropriately handled, it leaves me total peace of mind so I can actually relax and enjoy the time off. Otherwise, what's the point of leaving?

Here are more tips from my Inc. colleagues to help you get the relaxation you want without the stress of a major workload when you return.

1. It's All in the Planning

I always build my companies in a way that they don't require my day-to-day presence, so weekend trips are no problem. When I do plan to take extended time away from the office, I let my staff know well in advance. The sooner I plan and communicate the fact that I won't be available, the easier it is to arrange important meetings and events and cover tasks that need to be accomplished while I am gone. While on the road, I check in once a day at a predetermined time to address anything unexpected that might have come up. Eric Holtzclaw--Lean Forward

Want to read more from Eric? Click here.

2. Disconnect a Little at a Time

I'm a terrible example--I work virtually and am never disconnected. In October, I hit a brick wall of overwork and exhaustion and escaped to Cape Cod to stare at the ocean--but I still checked my email several times a day. Sound like you? That's bad. I recently met a brilliant entrepreneur who likened always-connected bosses to helicopter parents. He notes that those who work for you can't grow up into good managers if they never make their own decisions and--inevitably--mistakes. Start small: Next vacation, have no contact whatsoever with your office for the first 48 hours. If the sky doesn't fall, make it longer next time. Minda Zetlin--Start Me Up

Want to read more from Minda? Click here.

3. Document Everything

I have a friend who is a part of a virtual team in a small business. Last week, she sent an email to her boss, only to receive an auto-response saying she was out of the office for three days. Entrepreneurs take time off with great trepidation, yet they fail to prepare employees for their absence. Discuss your plans and leave a checklist of important procedures, including the things that someone else must do while you are gone. Would your team know whom to call if the company website went down? Document a course of action for emergencies, and prepare them to handle things that may go awry. Marla Tabaka--The Successful Soloist

Want to read more from Marla? Click here.

4. Set Expectations

I recently unplugged from work for a rare, four-day vacation. What was really rare about this vacation wasn't the fact that I took it--it was my determination not to do any work at all for a change. I knew that the only way I could pull this off would be to warn my key clients well ahead of time--letting them know via email a couple of weeks in advance, and then reminding them again a week later. I then made sure that I took the time necessary to catch up on all of my projects and deadlines so I wouldn't have any reason to break my no-work vow. Finally, the night before my vacation started, I set a vacation responder on my email, thanking senders for their message and letting them know that I would respond when I returned on Monday. Which is exactly what I did. Peter Economy--The Management Guy

Want to read more from Peter? Click here.

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Last updated: Apr 16, 2014

KEVIN DAUM | Columnist

An Inc. 500 entrepreneur with a more than $1 billion sales and marketing track record, Kevin Daum is the best-selling author of Video Marketing for Dummies and the executive producer of Amilya! on 77WABC New York.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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