5 Ways to Make the Most of Time Off

You have a glazed look in your eyes as you go haphazardly from one task to the next, no longer able to muster the energy to even send emails with complete sentences – it’s time for a break.

Burn out doesn’t help anyone – not you, not your organization, not your coworkers, not your clients. Though you may think you don’t have time for time off, it’s time to make it. And what better time of year to do so than the summer? So how do you make the most of your time off?

Prepare before your leave – Nothing signals that vacation is over like the onslaught of emails or the unresolved crisis you return to the day you come back. However, some preparation can make this more manageable. For example:

  • Give colleagues and clients a heads up that you will be out of the office. Ask them to let you know before you leave if they need anything so that you can do it ahead of time.
  • Assign someone to be your emergency point person. This is the person you will note in your out of office message (And whatever you do, don’t forget the out of office message!). Set up a meeting with them before your time off and go over everything that you are working on and what they may possibly have to deal with while you are gone.
  • Ask coworkers to only copy you on essential emails requiring your response. We all have inboxes full of email threads and mass emails. Likely those won’t even be relevant by the time you return, if they even were to begin with. Set expectations and tell coworkers to remove you from “list serves” and cc: lines while you are gone, and to only send emails that will require specific action from you when you return.
  • Instead of constantly checking email while you are away, plan time when you return to catch up on emails or what Shana Montesol Johnson calls “an extra virtual vacation day.” In addition, she also recommends setting up email filters and prioritizing responses.

Disconnect from the office – It can be hard. Perhaps you fear an emergency will arise that no one else can manage (hopefully saying this to yourself will sound a little bit absurd) or you just don’t want to be inundated the day you come back, but a vacation doesn’t work if you are checking email every day and taking calls. Make time to completely disconnect. Turn off your phone, shut your computer, and remind yourself that if you’ve done your job as a leader, the office can run itself. If you absolutely can’t tear away completely, set up designated time blocks to be completely disconnected and set limits on the times you aren’t – such as an hour a day or once a week.

Reconnect with yourself – We can lose ourselves in the constant go, go, go. Whether we’re on autopilot or in hyper-drive, we can forget to make “me time.” Use your vacation as an opportunity to reconnect.  Plan some time to focus on self and what makes you happy.

Enrich your mind – Vacations provide an excellent opportunity to learn and grow. Read that stack of leadership books or those articles that you have been too busy to get to. Catch up on good blogs or speaker series. And of course, conversation! Use the time to have long and meaningful conversations; what better way to learn?

Gain a new perspective – While vacation is an excellent time to reconnect with yourself, it is also an opportunity to gain a new perspective. When we visit other countries or try new things, we learn to see the world in a way we never had before.  These experiences can inspire us and help us to bring fresh-thinking back to the office when we return.

Time off is critical. No matter whom you are or how busy your day is, everyone needs time to rest and recharge. Vacations give you the opportunity to reconnect with yourself, enrich your mind, and come back more productive and innovative than when you left. So enjoy the beautiful weather this summer and get out of the office!

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