The excitement of taking a holiday is taking hold.
So why is it that the majority of people tend to work around the clock before (and sometimes after) to get the through the work they have to get on top of or hand it over to someone in their absence?
It creates an expectation and certain pressure that, quite frankly, is unhelpful and undermines the holiday itself.
With little time, below are 7 concise steps to make sure you get the things you need done before holiday, without exhausting yourself further, and go on holiday safe in the knowledge that when you return, you can approach work fully refreshed and relaxed.
1. Set up three lists: A, B and C
Start by listing all the things to be done.
‘A’ is your priority list, the things that have to be completed before you go away.
Your ‘B’ list are those something that can be set up before you go away and things that can be set up so they run on into your holiday and people can get on with while you’re away (replies to your e-mails or a colleague or associate that can ‘hold the fort’).
‘C’ list items are those things that would be good to do if you have the time before holiday but, if not, can wait until after.
These lists can be set out on a free project management system such as Trello or by the traditional paper and pen way.
This automatically give you a visual overview of the really urgent things that need to be done and the tasks that can be started.
2. Diarise Tasks
From the lists above, you can then start diarising your tasks for yourself, directly into your calendar, if this is the easiest way for you to make yourself accountable.
Accountability partners are great, however when you’re short of time but disciplined enough to get things done, another meeting may not be a necessity at this stage.
Tackling deadlines and urgent matters first may be counter-intuitive. Review the lists and allocate how long each task will take first.
If, for example, you have five minutes until a meeting, it is not the best use of time to phone an insurer to renew a policy (which will undoubtedly take longer).
Instead, you can send an e-mail that is highlighted in your ‘B’ list, requesting a person to organise a project meeting whilst you are away.
By using your time more effectively, these jobs that can be crossed off your lists provides a sense of progress in achieving your end goals.
The insurance policy must be renewed as well but by allowing yourself half an hour for this, it might be that you complete it in 20 minutes and you have 10 minutes ‘extra’ that can be allocated to a less time consuming task.
3. Don’t take on anything new
By that, I mean that it wouldn’t be a good idea to agree to start working with a new client on the first day you return from your holiday.
It is useful and more productive to use the first day back after a holiday to settle in, review anything that requires action and plan ahead.
Hopefully, you will have a template or standard wording so that if a prospective client decides to enter into an agreement, you have format that you can send by way of a proposal before you turn off your laptop.
It gives a prospective client ample opportunity to collate a list of questions so that, on your return, you can answer them and take it forward.
Any new business should, if possible, commence two weeks after you your return so that you have time to get your feet under your desk, settle back in and ensure that you are maintaining a relationship with all your other clients.
4. Block your time
Give yourself blocks of time to complete project work, meeting coordination, your own cashflow, invoicing and business admin.
By setting yourself time to focus on one thing, you will get though the tasks in hand quicker.
Flitting from one task to another in a panic will lead you to a chaotic feeling of anxiety.
5. Manage your e-mails
If your line of work does not require you to respond to emails immediately, avoid the distraction of new e-mails pinging at you by not open your e-mail app.
Open up your e-mails and respond to them accordingly for a set time during the day. You might even set up an automatic reply to advise problem that you are responding to e-mails at a set time each day and if they need to contact you urgently to send a WhatsApp or text message.
6. Communication is key
Let people know that you will be away in advance, giving them as much notice as possible.
People are increasingly busier these days and being given as much notice of your absence will allow them to manage their own time effectively and provide you with their requirements (hopefully) weeks in advance, rather than the week beforehand.
If I have a confirmed holiday booked, I tell people pretty much straight away. I will remind them six weeks beforehand and then again perhaps three weeks before I finish. You can do this during a telephone conversation, by email or even put it in their diary if they prefer. The expectations of one another have been set and you have prepared them for being out of the loop for a determined time.
Asking people of their requirements in advance may or may not be valuable. Some people will not think too far ahead of how they can be helped, however, others will be grateful to be promoted so they can plan accordingly.
Either way, it is going to be an advantage if even just one or two people allow for this and spread the workload for you.
7. Long term planning
Following the steps above should be straightforward: because you know when you’re going on holiday, because you have communicated to your clients that you will be away, the fact that you have detailed your priorities on a visual plan, there will be some long-term planning that can be done, which will reduce the amount that needs to be crammed into the two weeks before you go away for two weeks.
A slow drip feed on projects that are maintained and are continually progressing and do not have set deadlines can be set up well before you are away.
Little pockets of time can be set aside to allow for these bigger projects to be planned for.
An example of this is drafting and scheduling a monthly social media plan, allowing for flexibility, so that visibility is not lost.
Planning, time management and communication are key.
If the steps above are followed, you should not need to work crazy hours to fit everything in.
After all, you are going on holiday because you probably need a break. Try to manage people’s expectations. Most things can wait.
(If you have to check e-mails while you are away, make sure you set yourself 1 hour every day, and be disciplined not to peek at them at other times).
Enjoy your holiday!
If I can be that person to help you organise your time before your well-deserved, get in touch to discuss further.