Hopefully after reading last week’s post on why taking a holiday is good for both your soul and brain synapses, you will have picked a date, agreed on a location and made plans to take some time off. In order to make your holiday as productive as possible, here are just a few expert ideas for how to prepare to go on, and come back from, your holiday — stress free.
I spoke with David Allen, author of Making It All Work: Winning at the Game of Work and Business of Life, for his best advice on the business of taking a holiday.
1. Clear the deck: “The best way to unhook from the office so you can really get away is to clear the deck,” says Allen. As Allen points out, people know this intuitively, but before they close up their cubicles and leave town, they need to have actively captured, clarified, organized and renegotiated their agreements so they can hit the golf course carefree.
2. Start your research sooner, rather than later: “Start surfing the Web weeks before you think you should for places to eat, things to do and even what technology set-up you will need while away,” says Allen.
Leaving the details of your holiday until the last minute can interfere with your ability to relax and enjoy your time off. “You don’t want to get to the museum you’ve been wanting to visit for a year and find out that there’s a three-hour wait to get in that could have been avoided had you bought tickets online a few weeks ago,” says Allen.
As soon as the holiday trip is on your radar, make it a project, create a mind map and create a file folder where you can place ideas and information.
3. Create a holiday action list: Before you go on a trip, create a temporary action list of things that must get done before you leave. Then, for each item on your plate, ask, “Can this wait until I get back?” If the answer is yes, schedule it as a to-do for after your return. If it needs to be done prior to your holiday, add it to the before-I-leave list. Only work on the before-I-leave list in the days or weeks leading up to your vacation.
4. Leave space for re-entry: A few years ago, I interviewed Allen for an article I was writing for Woman’s Day magazine on a similar topic. He gave me then a piece of advice I have used ever since — with magical results.
According to Allen, for every day you are away from the office, it takes one hour of time to process the incoming work that piled up while you were gone.
That means that if you are gone for eight days, it will take you eight hours just to catch up on what came in while you were gone, not including anything else you may have waiting for you from before you left.
Allen’s suggestion is to protect a window of time needed to catch up. For example, give your estimated arrival date back in the office as a day or two later than you plan, so you can work in peace and catch up. At the very least, realize that the day or two you get back must be dedicated to catching up — not taking meetings or starting something new. Your sanity depends on it.
5. Keep organized on the trip: While on your trip, create a portable system (file folder, manila envelope, etc.) where you can keep the billion or so scraps of paper you will collect while traveling. Place all receipts, business cards, brochures and any other paper items in one place so they can be easily processed when you return home. An even better idea: Get a head start and begin going through them on the plane ride home.
How do you get ready to go on holiday? We would love to hear your comments.
Karen Leland is a freelance journalist, best-selling author and president of Sterling Marketing Group, where she helps businesses negotiate the wired world of today’s media landscape — social and otherwise.