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How Successful People Unplug From Work And Take A Real Vacation

By Avery Blank


Editor's Note: This article was originally published on Forbes.

You yearn for a moment to yourself.  But you can’t seem to catch a break. A professional’s work is never done. It is part of the job description. It is the reality of having a career.

If you want to get away and the opportunity to recharge, you need a plan to set expectations. Follow these seven steps to set yourself up for success.

Two weeks before vacation: Email stakeholders.

Email your manager, reports and peers at work to let them know you will be on vacation and the dates you will be out of the office. Send this email two weeks before you leave to allow others to plan accordingly and connect with you ahead of time to gather the information they need.

If you know a colleague might need a particular piece of information, be proactive and connect with the person directly ahead of time. If you will not be present at a meeting, be courteous and let the meeting organizer know.

One week before vacation: Schedule and meet with teammates.

Schedule time before and after your vacation to meet with your teammates – it might include a few of the individuals to whom you sent the email.
Share your phone number and keyword to use in the title of an email from them to signify emergencies. The word might be “urgent” or “critical.” And share examples of what you consider an emergency, such as when there is a deadline drawing near and you lack sufficient information or a client is about to jump ship. There are very few things at work that might rise to the level of an emergency, so it is critical to be clear about what meets that designation.

At this pre-vacation meeting, consider scheduling a meeting on your return as an opportunity to regroup.

Two days before vacation: Send a short email reminder.

Vacation may be on your mind but not on the minds of others. Send a one or two sentence email as a friendly reminder and that you are available to speak that day or the next day. Give yourself and others the opportunity to tie up loose ends before you leave.

The day before vacation: Enable your out of office message.

Set up your out of office message to include the time period you will be away from your desk. If you want to make an impact and add value to your out of office message email, consider including a link to a relevant article to keep your colleagues engaged while you are out. For more tips, read What Successful People Say In Out Of Office Email (That You’re Missing Out On).

During vacation: Check email and phone periodically for keywords and people.  

Occasionally check your email for the agreed upon keywords that signal a work emergency. If you do not see those trigger words, do not respond. Fight the urge. If you feel the need to write a response, write it and keep the response in your draft folder until you return.

Communicating unnecessarily on your time off undermines your value and importance. It ruins your vacation and tells others that you can be reached at any time. You may also answer hastily or in anger because you are being interrupted. Don’t make yourself too available. Save some of your capital.

Also, communicating while on vacation can set an (or perpetuate the) expectation that others need to be reachable all time. Demonstrate your leadership, and set an example for your organization.

First day back from vacation: Stay on the “down low” (the “DL”).

The first day back from vacation can be overwhelming. You may have hundreds of emails and phone messages to respond to and people coming by your desk to address immediate issues.

Keep your out of office message on the first day you are back. Be discrete and delay the expectation of having to respond immediately so that you can dig your way out of the backlog of work.

Second day back from vacation: Reconnect with your teammates.

Now that you have had the opportunity to address tasks that needed your immediate attention, sit down with your manager, peers or reports to regroup and ensure that you are moving forward without a hitch.

If you want a real break from work and successfully return to work, you need a plan. Leverage the time before you leave to follow these steps and put your mind at ease.

Avery Blank

Avery Blank is a millennial impact strategist, women’s advocate, and lawyer who helps others to strategically position and advocate for themselves to achieve individual and organizational goals