Vacation Checklist: 5 Tricks to Automate Your Work (and Slay Your Time Off)

Vacation Checklist: 5 Tricks to Automate Your Work (and Slay Your Time Off)
Time off from work is great, but it can also be a source of anxiety—especially if your vacation is long or off the grid.
How will you keep up with your workload and really take time off? What will happen to your company while you're away? Will your colleagues know what to do without you? (Hint: they probably will.

Still, your skin desperately needs Vitamin D and swimming in the ocean versus heading to the weekly editorial meeting? No contest. But when you're out in the mountains/oceans/somewhere wonderfully exotic, what happens to all that work you spend 40 hours a week getting done? And how do you prepare for the avalanche when you get back?

1. SCHEDULE EVERYTHING BEFORE YOUR TIME OFF

I mean everything. If you're running a blog or a website or a company's social media accounts, use a social media management tool to schedule the sh*t out of your accounts. Make sure you're still posting regularly, but don't go completely overboard and post every five minutes. Just ensure that your presence will still be felt in the Twittersphere while you're off taking surfing lessons. The same goes for Facebook and Instagram. Facebook allows you to schedule posts months ahead of time, and you can also download Latergramme or Hootsuite to schedule IG posts.

If you're managing a website, make sure you set up an editorial calendar (if you haven't already) and schedule your articles to publish on specific dates. Make sure your colleagues have access to the editorial calendar so they can check it if need be.

If you have weekly emails, use a tool like Boomerang to write them in advance and send them out as needed. Oh, and don't forget to set up your "Out of Office" reply. 

Once that's all done, at least those parts will take care of themselves. 

2. USE IN-FLIGHT TIME

If you're travelling long-distance to get to your destination, optimize the time you spend on the flight. Right now, as I write this, I'm sitting on a flight to Canada, and we're somewhere above Greenland. Many flights are equipped with power sockets so if you need to get some straight up editing/non-Wifi-enabled work done, now's your time. Download everything you need beforehand, and make sure you bring your charger!
She had subdivided her workload amongst different colleagues (color-coded, of course), written down long-term tasks, and explained everything that needed to be done within the next week. It was the most beautiful email I have ever received.

3. PLAN AHEAD

The main reason people panic about going on vacation is because they haven't planned ahead. A few weeks before you leave, start thinking beyond the immediate, urgent tasks at hand. What issues are likely to come up? How can they be overcome? If there are long-term commitments or key dates on the horizon, make sure you've notified the appropriate people and come up with an action plan. As in: write one down with an accompanying list of to-dos-before-you-gos. Make note of which of your colleagues will need to help with various areas while you're gone. Before you leave, you'll send this in an email to your team (see #5). 
This will reduce your vacation anxiety and will also help your colleagues see you as the cool cucumber you really are (you've got this—many other cucumbers don't). 

4. OUTSOURCE

If you really do have too much to deal with, look into who can help with your workload while you're gone. Be sure to give them specific instructions and clarify your expectations. Pick a point person for any emergency emails from colleagues or clients, and give your team your phone number (with the clarification that it should only be used as a last resort). Then, have a couple of practice runs before you leave so they feel comfortable and confident handling your workload, and remember to have a little faith.

5. CREATE A PARTING BRIEF FOR YOUR TIME OFF

One of the most impressive parting briefs I've ever seen was written by a colleague at an agency I worked with in Luxembourg. It was several pages long and had clear details of everything you could possibly need to know about her projects. She had subdivided her workload amongst different colleagues (color-coded, of course), written down important and long-term tasks, and explained everything that needed to be done within the next week. It was the most beautiful email I have ever received.

When you're leaving, if you or your colleagues are starting to feel worried about handling the work, writing a parting brief will help you take control of your departure and create a sense of security and organization. 

People won't ignore tasks that are clearly outlined and signposted for them. You'll feel more competent, and you'll have complete peace of mind on that time abroad (or just that long weekend staycation).
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What are your tricks for enjoying a stress-free vacation?