One of the worries about taking a vacation is the laundry list of responsibilities you’re seemingly leaving behind. Enter the pre-vacation guilt.
It’s natural to feel like you’re abandoning ship in the office when you take time off — but there’s no reason to let it ruin your piña colada. In fact, you’ll likely be a better employee by ditching your desk for a few days, says Michelle Carlstrom, the senior director of work, life and engagement at Johns Hopkins University.
Below are several ways to zap the shame out of your vacation and leave your workplace super prepared for your absence. Go on, board that plane!
1. Set up an out-of-office message.
The first step in actually allowing yourself to be on vacation is letting everyone know that you’re gone. When you get someone’s automatic reply, you don’t expect them to respond to your inquiry. Chances are, people will think the same for you. Set up an out-of-office message and then close your inbox for good. Looking for some suggestions? These might help.
2. Have a plan in place.
The more prepared your colleagues are for your absence, the more relaxed you’ll feel when you head out the door, Carlstrom told The Huffington Post. This includes leaving a list of your daily responsibilities or an account of what work needs to be completed when you’re gone.
3. Give your coworkers an emergency contact.
But it’s just for emergencies — and be sure to set up some boundaries with it.
“Put an urgent contact plan in place, such as ‘Under x, y, z circumstances, please text me,'” Carlstrom advised. “Otherwise, consider disconnecting from work email then engage fully in the work of your vacation.”
4. Get everything done before you leave — then let it all go.
If you insist on doing it all right before you’re out of the office — that one extra project, that dinner with your client — Carlstrom recommends devoting the same amount of time to unwind after your big push. This technique is what she coins as the “Sprint-Recover method.”
“The key takeaway is that we need to be thoughtful about planning and taking downtime — and not feel guilty about recovering from a big sprint,” she said. “This method is aligned with American culture and messages that we see so often around pushing oneself, going hard, being great — the sprint. What often needs more attention is the recover component.”
5. Think about what you want to accomplish when you return.
Of course it’s not ideal to ruminate over the office when you’re away, but that’s also unrealistic. If you’re going to spend some of your mental space on work, Carlstrom suggests concentrating on goal-setting.
“If you want to think about work, get out of the weeds and think positively about your professional trajectory, your values and connecting your work contributions in a way that aligns with those values,” she said. “We often don’t have a lot of thinking time in the daily grind; if you want to think about work while you are on vacation, think big.”
6. Add a buffer day to your time off.
One of the most stressful parts of a vacation is the overwhelming amount of work you encounter when you come home. It’s enough to make someone not want to pack their bags altogether.
If you can, schedule a “buffer day,” or even just a few hours, when you come back. This means blocking off your schedule and not diving into the daily grind right away but giving yourself an opportunity to catch up on what you missed and organizing yourself before heading back into the office. You’ll feel a lot more relaxed — and refreshed — when you officially come back to the office.
7. Actually enjoy your vacation.
The best souvenir you could give your coworkers is a relaxed peer who has returned from a trip, ready to nail their to-do list. The whole point of taking time away from work is to unwind from, well, work. Research shows that unplugging does make you happier and more productive, so it’s best to ditch that inbox.
“The constant ping of new information coming in while on vacation is a distraction to your personal time and to yourself,” Carlstrom said.
Allow yourself the luxury of actually taking time off and return to your desk ready to tackle those responsibilities you put on pause. Your job will thank you for it.
We don’t know what you do for a living, but we do know you likely need a break. And, nearly halfway through the year, we’re challenging you (yes — busy, overworked, financially stretched you) to #TakeABreak.
During the month of June, we’ll help you nail down how many vacation days you have at your disposal, figure out where to go, and plan a trip you can actually afford. For 30 days of travel tips, cheap flight hacks, vacation ideas and wanderlust galore, sign up for our Take A Break action plan here!
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