Go Ahead Leaders, Take That Vacation

7 Strategies to Optimize Your Time Off and Come Back Refreshed

The days are getting shorter again, but it’s not too late to take a few days off before the end of summer. August is often the perfect month to take some time away from work.

You should consider getting away for a bit because you probably need it. Vacations are vital for rejuvenation, especially for high-achievers.

And yet people constantly tell me they don’t know how to get time away or what to do with themselves when they get time off. So I’ve put together 7 strategies for how leaders can best plan and enjoy vacations.

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1. Understand the Various Types of Vacations

Vacations come in different varieties. There are spiritual pilgrimages, health improvement vacations, change of pace vacations, rest and relaxation vacations, sightseeing vacations, and other kinds of vacations. You can see one longer list here.

2. Choose the Vacation that Makes Sense for You

There is no wrong answer, but it’s helpful to know what kind of vacation you want so that you can plan accordingly. Money matters as a consideration. I wouldn’t go into debt to go on a vacation, but that shouldn’t stop you from taking time off.

If you just need a change of pace, a “staycation” might work for you. Don’t go into the office, don’t commute, ignore all email and other social networks, and just have a good time with family and friends. Maybe read some books that you’ve been putting off, barbecue in the backyard, and sleep in.

Several years ago—when I was still CEO of Thomas Nelson—my family joined me after a business trip to Brazil with a rest and relaxation vacation in the fishing village of Buzios. We hung out there for a week, and it was totally refreshing. We ate fresh fish every day. We got massages. We laid out in the sun. It was fantastic.

3. Get Caught Up Before You Leave

I’m never more productive than I am in the few days before I go on vacation. Even if you have to work late for a few nights before you leave, you’re going to rest better knowing your physical and digital inboxes are empty and that there’s not some important task left half-done.

4. Delegate Authority to Act in Your Absence

If you don’t have anybody working for you, this may not be important. But if you’re a leader and you have a department or executive assistant or people counting on you for decisions, then you have to set this up.

If you already have a number 2 to delegate that authority to, that’s great. If not, then I suggest you do what I did at Thomas Nelson. I picked someone and sent an email out to the leadership team saying “While I’m away, I’ve authorized Joe to make any decisions that need to be made on my behalf. He has my complete confidence. Whatever decisions he makes will have my support when I return.”

5. Set Other People’s Expectations

Sending that email is an important part of setting other people’s expectations for what to do at work while you’re on vacation. If you don’t tell people you’re on vacation, they’re not going to know. They’re going to still send you emails or make phone calls, and they’re going to expect a response.

You have to make sure your voicemail and your email notifications are turned on (you know, your out-of-office messages). You have to tell people you’re not going to be checking messages. Then tell them what to do in case of an emergency.

You should also tell them when you’re going to return, and tell them not to expect replies to messages sent while you were on vacation. If it’s not resolved by the time you’re back, they can contact you again about it.

6. Focus on the Purpose of Your Vacation

Focusing on the vacation helps you to be fully present. Don’t think about the office. Don’t think about all the stuff you left undone, which, if you followed the previous step, you didn’t do. Don’t wonder what’s happening in your absence. Don’t think about what you’re going to be doing when you get back. Don’t be planning the future.

Instead, really focus on the people you’re with and the purpose for which you went on the vacation to begin with. Enjoy doing something wholly different from your usual workaday routine. This is the whole point of vacations. Miss it, and you’ll miss out.

7. Block Out a “Catch up Day” for Your Return

On the day I come back to work after a vacation, I have no meetings and take no phone calls. Usually, in my out-of-office message, I tell people that I’m coming back to work a day later than the day I come back to town. I don’t lie about it. I say, “I’ll be available on such-and-such a day.”

That gives me some buffer time when I can really catch up, where I can process email and other inboxes. Then I can hit the ground running again, feeling both refreshed and totally caught up.

Question: What’s holding you back from taking that vacation that you already know you need? What step will you take this week to make it happen? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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