Friday, September 7, 2018

The World Will Keep Turning Without You—How to Address Pre-Vacation Stress

Now that the Minnesota State Fair has come and gone, students are back in school, and temperatures are cooling off in Minnesota, I have started to prepare for fall. This includes preparing for my fall vacation.

Like many people, I know all too well how the period before a vacation can be filled with stress.  Luckily, I recently ran across an article in the Harvard Business Review, “How to Take the Stress Out of Taking Time Off,” written by time management coach Elizabeth Grace Saunders. Saunders offers a few suggestions on reducing what she typically sees as the two types of pre-vacation work stress: (1) completing work before a vacation, and (2) being away from the office.

Saunders’s tips include:

  1. Planning ahead to prioritize and complete “must-do” projects;
  2. Partnering with peers to cover for you; and
  3. Deciding, and communicating to your team, what projects you will not do until you return.

Saunders’ fourth tip, and in my opinion, the most important is that “…if you can truly unplug, do.”

Saunders writes that “[t]here’s something wonderfully freeing about realizing the world can and will keep turning without you.” The idea that our workplace can survive without us can be easy to understand conceptually, but very difficult to actually believe; urgent matters that no one else can address always seem to arise when a vacation is near! Saunders continues: “I personally believe that completely stepping away from work for a time gives us the gift of perspective. It helps us remember that our jobs really can go on without us—at least for a while. And it reminds us of the importance of life outside our work.” 

Saunders also acknowledges that there may be urgent, time-sensitive items that require your response while on vacation. In such circumstances, she suggests that you set limits, such as checking emails for one hour during the morning, or having a co-worker text you the status of an important project so that you stay informed without having to “open your inbox and get sucked into work mode.” 

As you plan your next vacation, I challenge you to try, even if only for a day or two (which I know can feel impossible), to truly unplug!

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