Optimist Performance

Time management is always important, but when holiday leave is fast approaching and our mountain of work doesn’t seem to be getting any smaller, managing our time becomes even more critical. 

According to a recent study, 82% of respondents said they work while on vacation, and 42% said they use vacation days specifically to do work. Given these numbers, it’s not surprising that more and more people are experiencing burnout. We all need to disconnect from time to time to reduce stress and recharge our energy. Furthermore, working while we’re on holiday doesn’t only harm us, but it can also be detrimental to our teams. 

We send clear messages when we send emails or work during our so-called free time. Even if the purpose of working while on holiday is to be available to our team, we’re setting a clear precedent that unplugging is not an option. Furthermore, it may be interpreted as a lack of trust in our team’s ability to manage their tasks without us.

“You’ll be amazed at what you can do when you’re unplugged—and what your people have accomplished when you plug back in. I can personally attest that you’ll be a more confident and better leader because of it.” – Moffat, CEO of Deloitte.

Time management skills you can use to prepare for your holidays

Getting ready to take time off for holidays can be stressful; in addition to planning the trip, packing the bags, and so on, you must also tidy up at work and ensure that everything will run smoothly while you’re away. 

Planning is the first step towards ensuring your stress-free holiday. Start planning a few weeks before you go, so you allow yourself enough time to tie up any loose ends. Also, organise your return plan, so you feel prepared and confident about what you’re coming back to, while anticipating that there will likely be new issues and work to pick up.

If everything is important, then nothing is. – Patrick Lencioni.

Being able to prioritise is essential for effective time management. Given most people are already dealing with work overload, we need to be upfront and honest with ourselves and our teams about our ability to finish tasks and projects before going on holiday. 

time managementIn addition, prioritising is essential when we need to delegate some of our workload to others. Be mindful of people’s time and only delegate what is absolutely required. You can also create a priority list for your team so everyone knows what the top priorities are and what can be deferred if necessary.

Communication is always an essential skill, and it’s also a huge component of your stress-free holiday. Once you’ve finalised your plan, you must ensure that everyone understands their role in it. Creating a detailed and precise handover for your team, colleagues, and managers will help you relax while on holiday. 

When preparing your handover, think about what questions they could have, what they would need to complete the tasks and what unforeseen events might occur while you are away. The more you plan and the better you communicate beforehand, the easier it will be for you to disconnect later. 

Last but not least, you need to set boundaries and let go 

We don’t want to leave our colleagues hanging or appear irresponsible, so we’re “staying connected” while on holiday. Wrong. Setting clear boundaries about when and why people should contact you is essential if you really want to enjoy time off. If you have prepared well, you should feel pretty confident about asking people not to contact you unless it’s an emergency. Even if something requires your attention while you’re on vacation, be explicit about when and how you’ll be available.

Once the prep is done, it’s time to let go. Wanting to be kept in the loop is a trap we all fall into. However, learning how and when to let go is critical to our well-being. Some solo entrepreneurs don’t have the luxury of having a team to rely on, but if you do, take advantage of it. You have done everything you can to ensure everything is in order; now you need to trust your colleagues to carry on without you. 

Prepare to leave but also to come back

time managementPlan for a catch-up day, including minimising meetings (internal and external) when you first return. Coming back from holiday can feel overwhelming, so giving yourself some time to catch up will help you feel less stressed and immediately overloaded. It will also ease you into returning to “work mode.”

When planning your catch-up day, reframe it as a “working day”. According to research, the name we use to define our time impacts our intrinsic motivation, affecting how we feel about it. 

As well as blocking out time for catching up on emails, dealing with new issues and digesting project updates etc, plan time with your team and colleagues. It can be difficult to squeeze another call into our already packed schedule but you’ll need a proper update when you’re back. Scheduling a call in advance with the team on your first day back at work will help you get up to speed quickly.

All this sounds great, but what if I just can’t completely unplug?

Even though it is not ideal, for many people unplugging completely during vacation is just utterly impossible. In addition, some people admitted to stressing out more when they don’t check emails and are unaware of what’s going on. While disconnecting has its advantages, we all need to know ourselves and find what works for us. 

time managementWe’ve compiled a list of handy tips for you:

Set up clear limits. If you need to do some work while on holiday, make sure you set a time limit for how much time you will invest and when you will do it. Aleksey Danchenko, CEO of eSputnik, always schedules half an hour first thing in the morning when he is away and then disconnects for the rest of the day. 

Declutter your Inbox. Returning to a full Inbox is no one’s idea of heaven but we can always find strategies to help avoid it. Committing a short amount of time each day just to organise your Inbox and reply to what’s absolutely necessary can significantly benefit your peace of mind. Make sure though that you’re disciplined about what you deal with and avoid getting sucked into problem-solving or responding to things that can most definitely wait.

The Optimist view…

As a small team, we know how challenging stepping away to take a holiday can be, but we also know how essential it is for everyone’s well-being. While there are occasions when priorities are pressing and issues have to be immediately resolved, we constantly strive to assist our colleagues in unplugging. Simple things like contacting them only when essential or not copying them on every email, so they don’t return to the Everest of emails may make a huge difference.

Furthermore, as leaders, we don’t only have to worry about ourselves but also about every person in our team. The best practice is always living by example, so taking your time off seriously is not only about you but also about what signal you send to your team. And, importantly, what you signal is important to the people you choose to spend your downtime with.

At Optimist Performance, we help leaders deal with their everyday challenges because we know that while the theory sounds easy enough, it’s way more challenging to put it into sustainable and positive practice.

Get in touch with us today to learn more about our leadership development programmes and executive coaching programmes.