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How to Get Everything Done Before Your Holiday

By in Personal Effectiveness

Why is it we always seem to have so much to do before we go on holiday with so little time to do it?

Yes, it’s that the time of year, when we frantically try to clear our desks before we go on annual leave and make sure there are no loose ends. People everywhere are rushing around, issuing instructions and making sure all bases are covered so we can enjoy our holiday.

That’s right, its holiday time, but unfortunately that much-needed break can be a cause of extra stress. You know the procedure – rushing around trying to get everything done before heading off for two weeks; leaving your contact details with your colleagues “just in case of an emergency”; checking your smart phone just in case you get an important email at the airport, all even before you have boarded your flight.

With a couple of days to go, our ‘to do’ lists appear to just keep growing even though you are achieving as much in one day as you would normally achieve in a two days. What a shame you did not start working a little harder a few days earlier.

Here are my top tips to ease the pressure and to get all your work sorted out before you leave: it is as important to clear your mind as well as your desk; if you don’t you will waste the first week de-stressing!

Tip 1: Begin planning three weeks ahead and not two

I know you get an adrenaline rush by leaving things to the last minute, but make an effort to plan from three weeks out. Make a three level priority ‘to do’ list: I must do; I should do; and I could do. Trying to keep everything in your head is a sure way to forget something important – something that will only come back into mind when sitting on the plane!

The next step involves estimating how long each ‘to do’ will take and assess if it is a ‘to do’ for you or a ‘to do’ for someone else. If it is a ‘to do’ for you go to tip 3: if it is a ‘to do’ for someone else, brief them, delegate and LET GO!

Tip 2: Plan when to do your ‘to dos’

A ‘to do’ list is a good start, but now it’s time to up-grade it into a ‘smart to do list’. This involves blocking out diary time when you will do each task. If the decision is to delegate, book an appointment in your diary when you will delegate it. Book a date when you will review progress before you leave and on your return. Book a time and date in your diary now to draft that outstanding report; just like any other appointment, protect the appointment from other interruptions.

Tip 3: Delegate, Develop and Debrief

There is a good chance you are not delegating effectively if you have too much to do. Your annual holiday is an excellent opportunity to improve your delegation skills and share some responsibilities with others who are glad of the learning opportunity and a show of confidence in their abilities. Use your holiday, to see how they handle the things on their own.

Tip 4: Set up an Out of Office Reply

Even if you are tempted to check your emails whilst away, always set up your out of office reply. Make sure you include the following points:

  • The dates you’re away (e.g. “I am out of the office from Monday 20th July to Friday 31st July inclusive”)
  • A sentence such as “I will get back to you on my return” – MAKE SURE YOU DO!
  • A suggestion of what they should do if it’s urgent (e.g. “If you need a reply before I get back, please get in touch with <Colleague Full Name> at <Colleague Email> or call <Insert Phone Number>

Tip 5: Leave Instructions

Assuming you have a set of standard operating procedures or quality procedures, you should not need to prepare a list of ‘how to’ instructions. If you do need to leave behind specific sets of instructions, brief the people before you leave as often in your haste the instructions are not clear. Once you have prepared the instructions make sure people know where they are otherwise you might get an unwanted call or text whilst you are on the beach!

Tip 6: Leave Yourself a Note

Imagine it is your last day before you jet off on holiday and you are still in a rush as there are jobs you have not completed. Now is the time to plan your return to work so write yourself a note summarising:

  • Where you have got to with any unfinished tasks
  • A list of the tasks you postponed until return
  • A list of appointment times to meet with the people to whom you delegated tasks
  • What needs immediate action when you get back into the office
  • Anything else you will worry about forgetting whilst on vacation

One thing to add to your return to work list is a reminder to yourself to turn off your out of office reply; it’s easy to forget this!

Tip 7: Leave the Office on Time

Just go otherwise you will find things to do or someone else will find things for you to. Do not be tempted to just do that one extra thing or to call the office as soon as you arrive at home.

Tip 8: Relax and Enjoy It

You might not believe this, but organisations can and do survive without people when they go on holiday. They survive without you needing to check your emails at the airport, on arrival at the resort or at breakfast every day. Most ‘crisis situations’ are really just an over-reaction to a situation or an opportunity for people to learn how to resolve problems themselves.

Relax and have a great vacation, in the knowledge that you left everything in the best state possible before going away. If you have some great tips for planning how to have a stress free holiday, send them to us so we can share them with others.

John Moore has over 20 years experience of training and developing Managers, Coaches, Consultants and businesses. As Managing Director of Exponential Training, John researches, speaks, blogs and writes about how to improve performance. He also designs and delivers engaging, fun and interactive learning programmes. John is a Fellow Chartered Manager and has worked with managers and organisations in over 20 different countries.


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