Five steps to a relaxing holiday
First, it's useful to get an overview: what is the current status of your ongoing projects? What unexpected jobs could crop up in the near future, or what enquiries could come in while you are away? To help you create the best foundation for planning ahead, make a list so you can see everything that's coming up.
Identify the jobs that need tackling before and after your holiday. What appointments do you have and what deadlines do you need to meet?
It's very important that you factor enough buffer time into your planning, so don't arrange meetings or due dates for the days just before or after your holiday. Instead, you should use the run-up to your holiday to deal with any unexpected tasks or to straighten up projects, paperwork and your workspace. When you get back, you will need some time to regain your foothold, work through the emails and post that have built up and get back into the daily routine.
If possible, it would be helpful if you can reduce the number of open tasks that will need to be dealt with on your return. This means you'll be able to return to work without immediate deadlines to worry about.
Think about which tasks you can leave for your substitute while you are away. This is another area where being well organised is essential to simplify the handover. Plan a handover discussion so that you can brief your substitute worker. Put together a checklist so your colleague will know what kind of enquiries to expect, how to respond and where they can find important documents and information – don't forget to give your substitute the necessary rights to allow them to be access your digital documents if required. Don't leave anything to chance – it's the only way for you to enjoy your holiday undisturbed.
And make sure you make arrangements for your phone, post and emails.
Inform your colleagues, clients and partners that you are planning to take leave, let them know when you will be back and to whom enquiries should be directed in the meantime.
If you aren't planning to forward your calls, turn on your voicemail so that callers are informed of your absence. For the self-employed and small companies without phone cover, it might be worth making use of a telephone service. This makes sure that no call is left unanswered and creates a more professional impression.
You can also use an out-of-office email notification to let people know when you will be unavailable, what will happen to their email (will it be forwarded or will you be checking your emails from time to time?) and who to contact for urgent matters.
Once you've worked your way through your to-do list, you're ready for possibly the most important step of all: switching off. Think long and hard about whether it is really necessary to check your emails every day, or if you want to give the impression of being on-call by answering the telephone when it rings. You have prepared well for your absence and you have organised a capable substitute or given your clients and partners all the information they need. Now enjoy your holiday to the full so you can come back to work recuperated and relaxed.
PS: Prolong your absence publicly by marking yourself as unavailable in the office. This will stop your phone ringing off the hook on your first day back and making you wish immediately for a return to rest and relaxation.