I recently returned from a holiday which I loved. It was so relaxing, catching up with reading, spending time with family, swimming and eating well. However, the week before I went away, I returned to old patterns of behaviour in feeling stressed about everything that needed to get done. At one stage, I had to get a grip and remind myself that I know there are ways to prepare for a break from work that mean you don't have to be in the office the day before your break feeling underprepared, panicky and stressed. Most of this, I learned personally, being in a job where I never felt in control. So here are my top 5 tips for not feeling stressed before a break.
1. Ensure that it is very clear who has responsibility for what in your absence. It may be one person, it may be several. Make sure everyone knows who to go to for what. Schedule meetings with whoever is picking up responsibility before you go and afterwards so it is clear in your diary when their responsibility starts and ends.
2. Provide excellent verbal and written briefing notes to those people. Ensure they have physical and digital access to any project notes, etc, that they will need. Talk to IT if there has ever been a problem with digital access and get everyone to check their access before you leave.
3. Give yourself a reasonable amount of time on your last day before your break to finish up anything you want to do AND to set your out of office messages. This always seems to take longer than you think. Write a reminder note for your desk to turn these messages back OFF again when you return. If you use a lot of passwords and in the past you have had issues with remembering them, familiarise yourself with your company policy for passwords and follow it (e.g. I used to work for a company where you could write down passwords, put them in a sealed envelope that was signed and dated and have that stored in a lockable cabinet.) But don't make up your own procedures, unless you are in charge of that. In which case, you're the boss, boss.
4. If you’re going on holiday with other people, make sure you break down who is responsible for what. There is no need for you to be the only person printing tickets, checking weather, printing insurance documents, checking in online, booking parking, etc. Even if you usually do these jobs, remember you can choose to share the responsibility. Looking at people that complain their spouses don't do these tasks here. Tell them what you want, write out a list and put it on the fridge so you can cross off as you go. If you never get the help you want, and you never ask, you never will!
5. Do a quick and dirty 15 minutes brainstorming problems that may arise while you are away, both at work and at home (problems with the pets, parents, meetings coming forward, clients needing an answer) and work out who is going to deal with it. There is no point spending time on a break worrying about a foreseeable issue when you can deal with it before you go.
While you're away, resist the urge to check in. If it's urgent and important, they'll call you. If it's not, then they will still talk to you about it if you call them. Take a notebook to record all the fantastic ideas you have away from the office (be that about your paid work, your dream job or your hobby). Some of our best ideas come to us when we are away from the daily grind and it's surprising how many of them we forget about as soon as we're back to our normal routine.
Finally, enjoy it. You're not indispensable and you taking a break is not going to cause the whole world to collapse.