You know that feeling you get before you go on vacation? That harried, desperate feeling that you have to get absolutely everything done before you go?

It’s the worst. Which is really a shame, because the only thing better than going on vacation is looking forward to vacation.

We all know it’s important to take time off.¬†Breaks, rest, and of course, vacation are critical for our creativity, productivity and well-being. However, Project Time Off found that more than half of Americans leave vacation time on the table each year. On top of that, many Americans plan to work while on vacation, negating the refreshing effects of rest and disconnection.

Given that job stress is – by a long shot – the greatest source of stress for Americans, it makes sense that we’re not great at taking vacations. We’re too worried about the job to walk away from it for a few days.

All is not lost! By pro-actively planning for your absence, you can set yourself up for a rejuvenating break, and come back to efficient systems that make you more productive (and better at taking vacations) in the long run.

Delegate
You literally MUST delegate when you go on vacation. Why not use this opportunity to optimize what should stay on your plate, and what might continue to be delegated to others. Take a look at not only what needs to get done while you’re away, but everything that you do in a given week/month. Which of these tasks can only you do? Which are most critical? Even if you’re the only person in your department or a one-man-shop, what could you automate? Outsource? Is anything you’re working on unnecessary? Go ahead and trim the fat!

Get Organized
Even the most type-A professional gets some clutter in their processes and schedules over time. Use the vacation-planning moment to clean that up. Are your files a mess? Would it be difficult for whoever is covering for you to find something if needed? How about your inbox? Are there to-dos hiding in there that haven’t been addressed? There are thousands of tools that you can use to streamline – take this opportunity to find one or two that can make your life easier. (Some of my favorites are Asana, Calendly and Mailchimp’s automations.)

Communicate
You have to communicate clearly and directly when you’re going to be away. Take advantage of this moment to adjust the ways you’re communicating with your colleagues and clients generally. While ad-hoc communications work well when you’re always accessible, a more formal structure serves best when you can’t be available 24/7. Could you send a weekly roundup to clients, supervisors or direct reports? Perhaps you could include the hours/days you’ll be available to each party in this communication. Maybe you could start the leave the office at 5pm every day?

Now that all your ducks are in a row, go enjoy that PTO!

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About the Author Aubrie Fennecken

Aubrie Fennecken is the Chief Alchemist at Opportunity Kitchen | work + wellness strategist | nonprofit fundraising expert | providing productivity and self-care support for mission-driven humans

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