Have you ever taken a two-week vacation?
If you’re an American, the answer is probably, “no,” and that’s unfortunate. A one-week vacation really only affords a few days of relaxation and limits your travel options. An extended break from work can allow you to truly unwind and recharge, making you a happier person, and a better employee.
We often hesitate to take off more than five days because we’re afraid of the resulting chaos – before, during and after our vacation. And, honestly, some people worry that a two-week absence will make the boss start to think he can do without them.
But you absolutely can take off two weeks (or more) without cratering your career or feeling guilty, according to Fast Company. The key is careful planning.
Start planning for your absence well in advance. Fast Company suggests a week of planning time for every workday you’ll be gone. So, you would start planning 10 weeks ahead of a two-week vacation. That may sound like a lot of advance notice, put you may well have to request the time off that far ahead, so not really.
Use this time to make sure your responsibilities are covered while you are away. Make a list of your duties and find colleagues to handle each of them in your absence. Spread the work around so no one feels overburdened. Setting up this backup system may require some training, meetings and memo writing, but it’s worth the effort. What’s more, it can be activated again if you are out of the office for other reasons – business travel or illness, for example.
Be hyper-communicative in the weeks ahead of your vacation. Make sure all your clients, co-workers and partners know about your coming absence. Remind them frequently. Let everyone know who is covering your various responsibilities. Include that information in your out-of-office email message.
Expect the days leading up to your vacation to be crazy. There may be jam-packed days and late nights. Just remember the pay-off — two weeks of pure rest and relaxation.
And let’s talk about making sure your vacation truly is a time of rest and relaxation.
Remember, the goal of all this effort is to Get Away. So, you need to figure out a way to limit your office check-ins. Fast Company tells of one executive who has his assistant change his email passwords so he can’t check in. Another idea is to give one trusted colleague your spouse or travel companion’s cell number with directions to call only in a true emergency.
If you just can’t relax unless you know what happening at the office, arrange to check-in every few days, ideally early in the morning before the rest of your travel party is up and at ‘em.
You should also plan to minimize the amount of email you face upon your return. You could easily be greeted by 1,500 unread messages after a 10-day break. Don’t freak out! Breathe and break down that number. How many emails are truly important in the course of your day? Maybe 10 or 15? The rest can be deleted, especially as the issues they address will be dated or been handled by whoever was covering you. Cleaning up your inbox shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes, during which time you can daydream about your recent vacation.
If you have an assistant, email is even less of an issue. Empower him to respond to the routine emails, and summarize all the news/issues raised in the others in one “executive summary” email that can be waiting for you when you return.
Be prepared, too, for some backlash in the days (and weeks) after your return. There may be snide or passive-aggressive remarks from colleagues or even the boss. But if you’ve followed company policies, and covered your responsibilities, you have nothing to be ashamed of. You might mitigate any possible anger/jealousy by making clear that you are ready to cover for your vacationing co-workers, and maybe by bringing home a small souvenir for those who carried the heaviest load in your absence. You will, of course, thank your cover team profusely and often.
Yes, there is some effort involved in arranging a two-week vacation, but I think it’s worth it, especially if it allows you the chance to do something special with your family. If you don’t have plans this year for a long vacation, do yourself a favor and strive to use all your vacation days on short getaways and long weekends.
Life is a short pony ride, and it’s true that no one lies on his deathbed wishing he had spent more time at the office.