The Brain and Behavior Foundation talks about how multiple studies are showing that taking time away from the job can have both physical and mental health benefits.
Taking a vacation can help to:
- Reduce stress
- Reduce the risk of heart attacks
- Improve productivity
- Sleep better
However, the chances of relaxing during your vacation are greatly increased if you can prepare for it in the right way and be intentional about your process for going out on vacation.
This is why we’ve put together essential steps to take to help you prepare for vacation so you can truly enjoy your time off and maximize on all the health benefits vacation has to offer! Let’s get started:
Essential Steps for a Stress-Free Vacation
- Block your vacation days on the calendar
- Push deadlines proactively
- Block additional “desk-time”, if you can
- Push any non-critical meetings until after you return
- Block out your last day before going on vacation to prep-time and incidents
- Set your out of office
- Turn off phone notifications
- Set expectations and boundaries
- Brain dump it all
Block your vacation days on the calendar:
As soon as you know you’re going out on vacation, block the time on your calendar so others will see you are not available. This will also help eliminate the extra time needed to reschedule meetings that accidentally get scheduled while you’re supposed to be on vacation.
Push deadlines proactively:
Paid time off and vacation time isn’t just a benefit of the company, it’s necessary for your long-term health and mental health. If you’re getting pushback for taking time off and planning for it, that’s a red flag that the business culture may not support your well-being.
Account for holidays and your vacation time for any projects you might be taking on. It’s so easy to let others pressure you into the “need it yesterday” urgency, but at the end of the day, most things will be completely okay if they are completed a week out as long as it’s planned for accordingly.
The better you can get at holding strong and setting deadlines that include your vacation time, the less stress you’ll feel when it comes to taking time off from work.
Block additional “desk-time”, if you can:
I was chatting with a mom friend about how getting paid time off sometimes doesn’t feel like that at all. It’s more like work extra hours on the front end and back end of your vacation so that you can have some time off.
It really shouldn’t have to be this way, but as a past-corporate employee and someone who always took on 110% work capacity because of lack of boundaries, looking back, I can tell you it doesn’t have to be this way.
If you can, try to schedule some additional “desk time” the week before you go out on vacation or longer so you have time to respond to critical emails and get ahead on a little work so you don’t feel so behind when you return.
Push any non-critical meetings until after you return:
Ever feel like you’re going from meeting to meeting to meeting? If you have a meeting packed calendar at work or several recurring meetings that are more like “status updates”, consider which ones can be canceled or moved until after you return.
Also, coffee meetings and “get to know you” type meetings are a great way to network in the company, but keep them off your calendar the week before you go out on vacation. Inevitably, you’ll be busy wrapping up other projects and wish you could get that hour back if you do.
Block out your last day before going on vacation to prep-time and incidents:
If you’re going to be gone for a few days, it’s a good idea to block your calendar for the day before you leave for vacation or mark it as an “emergency meetings only” type day.
It never fails that when you are trying to wrap things up to go on vacation, a million fires explode at the same time. Be proactive in planning for the worst and keep your day before you go out on vacation free. That way, worst-case scenario, you’ll have open time on your calendar to take phone calls and join meetings as needed, or best-case scenario, you’ll have a nice stress-free day to do a little extra email clean up before you go out.
Delegate critical tasks only. Set expectations for the rest:
If you’re going out on vacation while others will be working, decide on the few critical things that someone else can help you oversee while you’re out.
Anything else should have the expectation that it won’t be completed until after you get back from vacation.
If you have a colleague that is taking on some of your work while you’re out, they will appreciate keeping it to a minimum so they can get their work done, too.
Set your out of office:
It seems obvious, but no matter how low key your company is, setting your out of office allows you to be able to fully disconnect. If absolutely necessary, you can always put your cell phone number on your out of office auto-response email for someone to text or call you, but take a moment to consider if that’s absolutely critical.
Better yet, include a set of instructions the sender can use if they need anything while you’re out. Maybe that’s a small list of other people in the department that can contact for questions, or maybe you have an FAQ document that answers 80% of most of the questions that come to you, which you could link in your out of office message.
Turn off phone notifications:
As a follow up to the above point, once you set your out of office, there should be no reason why you have to check your email while you’re out. If an emergency comes up, your out of office will tell them what to do, so there’s nothing you need to take care of. At this point, the hardest part is letting go.
Set expectations and boundaries:
Setting expectations at work is like setting expectations with a toddler if you say no, and they whine and cry about it because they know you’ll always give in and give them what they want, they are always going to whine and cry when they need something.
You have enough to deal with when it comes to whining and tantrums, so don’t let your work or your boss throw another tantrum in your life.
If it’s hard for you to set these boundaries, tell your boss or peers that you’re going to a location where there is no cell service or internet. (there are still places that exist like this!) Tell them whatever it takes so you can say “no” to being interrupted by work on your vacation.
Brain dump it all:
It never fails when I’m about to hit the “shut down” button to leave for vacation, my brain jumps into overdrive and I suddenly remember tons of non-critical things I need to get done.
Before you go out on vacation, do a massive brain dump of all the things on your mind and all the tasks that need to be done when you return. Once you’ve got it all out of your head, take a minute to have a mindful moment and tell yourself it will all be waiting for you you return.
Sometimes our brain and emotions need just as a deliberate “shut down process” as our computer does.
If you tend to remember things you need to do after you leave for vacation, make a google doc or notes section on your phone to jot it down as soon as it comes up in your mind so you can let go of the worry that you’ll forget about it when you return to work.
“Vacation Mode” is an Intentional Decision
At the end of the day, facing the fact that going on vacation and getting time to relax is not only an act of self-care, but it’s also an intentional decision you need to make for yourself.
Imagine how it will feel when you are able to come back from work with new memories with your family and time to do the things that bring purpose and fulfillment to your life, like spending time with those you love most.