Thursday, June 19, 2008

Make Time for a Break

Time Management

Picture this: You are on vacation. Relaxing on the beach. Or on the golf course. Or walking in the hills. Or doing whatever you like to do to relax.

Then your mobile phone rings. It's the office. Your peace is shattered. And you are transported back to world of work, problems to solve and urgent things to do.

Maybe your phone doesn't ring. And still, your thoughts wander back to the office too often. Why haven't they called? Did you remember to leave this file or that? Each time these questions flood your mind, the vacation magic is broken, at least momentarily.

So next time you take a vacation, what will it take for you to turn off your mobile phone, figuratively as well as literally?

The secret to a relaxing vacation is in the planning and preparation. Just as you need to plan and prepare for the vacation itself, so you need to plan and prepare for your time away from the office… and your return. Here are some tips to help you do that:

Get on top of your to do list:
Ahead of your vacation, make sure your to do list is well under control. Include on it every single thing that needs to be done before you go. Plan especially carefully for the things that are due whilst you are away and immediately after you return.

Delegate diligently:
If you need other people to do things for you whilst you are away, remember it takes time to explain these to them and prepare things they may need from you. Plan time so you can do this thoroughly. The more you prepare others for the time you are away, the less your mobile phone will ring!

Schedule contingency time for a smooth exit:
Have you ever been in the office until late the night before a vacation, desperately trying to finish some papers? Or maybe you have made one last phone call on the way to the airport to make sure your clients can survive your absence?

When this happens, it's really difficult to switch off that mobile phone!

Many of us are born optimists, with the unfortunate consequence that everything takes longer than we expect. And that includes getting ready to leave the office. The only solution is to plan some contingency time for the few days before you depart. Plan to complete everything before the contingency time begins. Who knows: With great planning and preparation, you could even start the vacation a little earlier – or at least start to relax!

Manage other people's expectations:
Tell everyone who needs to know ahead of time when you will be away and when you will return. It's obvious but so often overlooked. Make sure they know exactly who is dealing with things in your absence or if anything they expect from you will be delayed.

Some people, perhaps your boss, may have unrealistic expectations that your vacation should have no impact whatsoever. Maybe he or she expects you to have the mobile phone on all the time… Or worse, to take work away with you. His or her view will not change overnight, so preparation and persuasion ahead of time will be required!

(And if he or she is not persuaded by your great planning and preparation, the last resort is to vacation somewhere remote and communication free...)

Do as you would be done by:
Other people's vacations? Who needs them! It's more work for everyone else. And everyone gets envious and desperate to take their own break. Right?

Well it needn't be that way. If you help other people, they'll more likely help you when it's time for your vacation.

And people need time to refresh! So the office is usually nicer (and more productive) place to work when people get the chance to take regular breaks. So why not enjoy other people's breaks as well as your own?

Let go a little:
Does part of you actually want the office to phone whilst you're away? After all, how could they possibly manage without you for a whole week?

Sometimes it takes a little bit of mental preparation to truly wish yourself a phone-call-free vacation! Start by telling yourself:

"When I am away, everything will go smoothly because of my great planning, preparation and delegation. The less I am missed, the more successful I will have been in this!"

Plan your time for a smooth return:
What awaits you on your return? An overflowing inbox? Back to back meetings with clients? No time to catch up with colleagues?

Just as you need good scheduling and contingency time before you go away, so you need this on your return. Make sure you leave space in your schedule to deal with urgent and unexpected matters, to clear down your inbox and to catch up with what's been happening whilst you were away. All of this takes time. And you will feel refreshed for a little longer if you prepare for your smooth return!

So what do you think? Do you have time for your well-deserved break or vacation a break or vacation? You will have if you get started on that preparation and planning.

Taking time away from work is really important, and the better you prepare and plan, the more smoothly it will go, and a more enjoyable time will be had by all!

Time management is of course a valuable skill all year around, not just at vacation time.

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