cbSullivan Consulting, LLC

(Part 2) Getting Organized Before - and After - Vacation

Jun 3, 2024 | by Cindy Sullivan

For some, the thought of taking time off is stressful. 


If you dread the workload when you return to work or feel like that post-vacation zen will be quickly lost under a mountain of emails, then take steps NOW to get organized so things run more smoothly.  Sure, there will be things to catch up on, but you CAN set yourself up for a less frantic reentry.


My last post covered a few tips as you are just beginning to plan your time away. So click HERE and check it out if you haven't already. This week, I'm covering some tips right before you leave (and even while you're away) that can keep things running smoothly so you can focus on relaxing - - not the office:

  • Provide a countdown  Your colleagues are focused on their own work and may not be factoring in the timing of your absence.  Remind people 2 weeks out, 1 week out, 3 days before, and day prior to your departure. If you've given them a "need by" date to submit requests or work before you leave, use the countdown approach here as well.   
  • Final Call At the end of your countdown, send a Final Call email as a last reminder that you will be gone and that there is limited time to come forward with any requests or questions.  This clearly communicates expectations and makes it easier to let those with late or large requests know you will be scheduling time to focus on those needs upon your return.
  • Manage deliverables due before, during, and immediately after your time away.  Communicate early if there are any deliverables you won't be able to fulfill before you leave. If using task or project management software, adjust delivery dates for those items scheduled to be complete during your vacation or that need to be shifted due to your time away.  Just be sure that you don't set yourself up with 5 projects you promise to address immediately upon getting back in the office.  
  • Communicate expectations around your availability (if any) while away.  The point of taking time off is to get away from work and to spend quality time elsewhere.  Yet sometimes that isn't possible.  Determine - and stick to - your plan for accepting communication while away.  You can notify your key colleague, manager, or staff whether or not, and how often, you will be checking in, if you will be checking email or not, who you will accept communications from, which form of communication is best while you are out, and if you will only be communicating about specific projects, clients, needs, etc. or if you will remain available for broader contact.  
  • Provide an alternate contact where possible.  Having a few strategic conversations with others can help identify anyone who may be willing to field questions on your behalf while you're gone.  That may mean one key backup, or it could be different people tagged to address questions about different areas.  Leave those contact names and emails on your out of office messaging.  This means fewer messages to return once you get back and can often keep projects moving forward during your absence.
  • Set up out-of-office voicemail and email  Notify the sender of the dates you will be out of the office and provide backup contacts to reach in your absence.  I also encourage you state "Please contact me when I return the week of _____" which encourages the caller to reach back out rather than leave a message.  You may also direct them to leave an email with their message if you prefer that to answering a multitude of voicemail messages when you return.  It can also help track and document inquiries you get while away.
  • Block out the day before vacation and the day after you return.  Part of the chaos of leaving for - and returning from - vacation is trying to juggle all the things that have come up alongside meetings and other appointments.  Reserving the days on either side of time away can give you time to manage all that inevitably comes up as you are preparing to depart or are coming back in from time off.
  • Leave yourself some "bread crumbs".  Don't assume you will remember exactly where you left off with tasks and projects once you get back from vacation.  Time away and the inevitable catch up that's needed can blur our memories.  Before you depart, make a simple list of your primary tasks and projects you'll need to address when you get back AND a simple list of one or two "next steps" you need to take when you return.  It really eases entry and can destress since you will know right where to pick back up again.  

Interested to learn more about how to improve organization and productivity skills for yourself or your organization?  Reach out for a Complimentary Consultation to learn more about coaching and training opportunities.  Click HERE to schedule