As a business and executive coach, I work with company leaders on setting strategic focus and clarifying accountability for results. And while I love working with highly driven people, too often these folks are burned out and running on empty gas tanks.
Vacations are a great way to give your body and mind a much needed break from the stress and routine of the office. The problem is, many executives just take their work with them. Over time, this will stymie long term improvement and will likely lead to lackluster performance and results.
In order to get the most out of your time away, try these techniques. While you might not be able to do all of them, just a few will improve the benefits of the break.
1. Renegotiate your commitments.
In the weeks before your vacation, look at your workload and make sure you haven't committed to do anything that will interfere with your time off. If you realize that you promised a report or a project that would require you to work through the break, ask to change the due date. Most times people will be willing to flex. If you can't, clear your scheduling in the short term and get it done before you leave.
2. Set an auto-responder.
Most of today's email programs have features that will automatically send a response to any incoming email with a defined message. Create one that tells people when you'll be away and who else they can contact for support. I usually explain when I plan on replying to all messages which is typically two to three days after I return. Pro tip: add one or two days' buffer to your dates so that you have some breathing room.
3. Clear your schedule the day before.
Many people pack their schedule with meetings right up to when they leave for the airport. This not only makes things stressful, you'll be stuck with action items and follow ups while you're traveling. Instead, clear your schedule for the day before you leave and use this time to finish up work and get ahead of things that need to be done while you're gone.
4. Clear your schedule the day after.
On the flip side, don't book a day of meetings for when you return. If you run into travel problems and are delayed, it will only cause confusion and drama. Ideally, you'll arrive home on time and will be able to use the day to get to inbox zero and catch up on work before you dive into your regular routine.
5. Establish limited check in times.
If you absolutely need to check in with your staff and/or teams, set a specific schedule and set a specific time limit. By limiting the time, you'll prioritize, and anything that can wait until you return will be put on the shelf. By setting a specific time for calls, your people will hold onto issues until the agreed upon slot, rather than interrupting you throughout the day.
6. Turn off notifications.
I turn all of my application and phone notifications off while I'm on vacation. I promise people I will check email and text once a day, but no more frequently. If you have an executive assistant, have them check your email and texts and have a call with them once a day where they can prioritize the critical issues for you.
7. Do a mindsweep before you leave.
Just like clearing your mind before doing deep thinking, you'll want to clear your mind before vacation. Do a mind sweep a few days before you leave to list out anything that needs to be taken care of before you leave and to create of list of things that can wait until you get back. Having these lists and knowing you'll come back to them when you return can give your brain permission to unplug while you're away.
8. Create a list of vacation goals.
For many driven executives "doing nothing" is not an option. Instead, I suggest they create a separate to do list of goals for vacation. This could include things like reading a book or spending special time with family or meditating in the mornings. Unplugging doesn't mean you need to sit on the couch and watch movies, it means you need to change things up and take a break from the regular routines.
A good vacation can give you the time and space you need to clear the clutter in your mind and boost your morale. While you undoubtedly need to take a break from the office and you'll have to play a bit of catch up when you're back, the renewed energy and productivity will quickly make up for lost ground and allow you to perform better, for longer.