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Chiefs on vacation: vital tips for a good summer holiday

How to minimise working time during summer break


A friend recently took to Facebook a valid frustration: “In case someone is interested what is it to be an entrepreneur with own business: I had exactly one day of my vacation in Greece without writing e-mails and making work phone calls. Is it clear?”. Every manager and entrepreneur who cares about their company and business can relate to that. In fact, according to the most recent study of Harvard Business Review, CEOs spend about 2.4 hours a day working during their vacation. This is about a third of a work day, which is otherwise supposed to get you a good rest and charge you for the months to come.

Scientific researchers have proven time and time again that a proper vacation assures stress reduction, heart disease prevention, improved productivity, better sleep – to name only a view of the benefits. Coming back to my friend, the chief of a thriving consulting business. His message on social media inspired a flood of encouragement. Some wrote to him to relax and enjoy the sun and the sand. Other reassured him that his capable colleagues will take a good care of everything while he is gone. And one just summarised that this is the fate of everyone on a management position.


A drastic way to minimise working time during vacation would be to forget your phone and laptop and just leave to your dream spot in the company of the loved ones. This approach is one, hardly plausible for anyone who cares about their work and business, and two, it is likely to bite you back upon return when you have to face frustrated colleagues and business partners.


Taking a few simple and premeditated steps before the vacation can help to minimise the time spent on work during a well-deserved summer break.


Manage expectations

Map your stakeholders and tell them 2-3 weeks in advance when is your break. That would be your key team members, peers, bosses and main business partners. In the best case scenario you would be able to let them know whom can they approach on projects they might be running in your absence. About 2-3 days before you leave, remind your stakeholders about your vacation so they might have a final chance to discuss any pressing issues with you. Some people might think that they can skip all that by simply writing an “Out-of-the-office” reply in their e-mail, hoping this can save them from calls and work. But they are wrong. The standard out-of-the-office contains information that might be a serious cause of security threat and fraud. In such a message we give automatically to absolute strangers, who wrote us, information about exact period that we are gone, as well as phone numbers and e-mails of other people in the company. In recent years IT security experts put high a red flag on that. This is why such message is only recommended to be used for internal senders.


Empower your army

Make sure your team knows which are your priority projects that you work on and give the relevant team members enough information so that they can proceed when you are away. There is nothing more frustrating for a client, colleague or partner to hear: “Mrs. X is on vacation now and I do not know anything about Project Y. Call her or wait for her to come back.” Empowering also means to anticipate which decisions will need to be taken and give the authority to your colleagues to do so. There is an old saying: “When the cat is away, the mice will play”. A way to minimise the anxiety whether anything will be done in your absence, would be to agree prior to the vacation what are the expected results that you will look for when you come back. Provide the relevant contacts and documentation for project to keep moving.


Prepare luggage in advance

On a quest not to waste any minute from the coveted vacation, packing the luggage can be done during the week preceding it. A stress-less way to do that is the following. A couple of days before departure start putting whatever is needed for the vacation on a dedicated bed or chair. This way on the last day of work you will already have all the clothes, books and gadgets needed. This is the right time to downsize and remove repeating items or other not-so-essential items. A basic tip for this part of the preparation is to remember that usually people do not use even half of what they pack for vacation. So even if you cut your luggage in half, you are still good to go. Another tip, coming from The New York Times, is to take a smaller suite-case. Loosely interpreting one of the Parkinson’s laws, the reason to this useful tip is that luggage expands to the space allotted to it, i.e. the bigger the suitcase, the more items will find their place in it. The folding and packing itself is an art, to which the cleaning and organising guru-minimalist Marie Condo could help with the following video . One avid follower to this method, the vlogger Lavendaire, shows in a video how to pack for two weeks vacation in a carry-on suite-case.


Fight leisure sickness with a vacation plan

Many busy professionals experience what is known as leisure sickness. They work tirelessly till the very last minute before the break, complete demanding tasks and run busy schedules. And when vacation time finally comes… they get sick. One explanation of the phenomenon reasonably comes from the fact that when people change the physical environment, for instance while travelling by plane, they get exposed to new germs and viruses to which they are not immune. A higher health prudence can help to minimise that risk. But there is also a bio-psychological perspective to this leisure sickness, as reported in the Vingerhoets’ study. Basically the transition from work to holiday is virtually making people sick. Some people say that you just let your guard down and this gives way to illness. Whether true or not, an easy way to make the transition smoother is to actually plan for the holiday, schedule it, set personal goals, the same way you are preparing your weekly or monthly goals. The vacation goals could vary depending on personal interests – learn to dive; swim or bike daily to lose 5 pounds; climb that peak; read those books... As with any plan, the goals should be S.M.A.R.T. - specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely. One is sure: the vacation goals should have nothing to do with the daily work. Prepare the vacation plan BEFORE the actual vacation in order not to lose valuable moments in enjoying and achieving it.


In conclusion, there is nothing wrong with an occasional phone call with the office, or with setting aside some time to catch up on e-mail or a work project. The only prerequisite is that this is done in the time and manner that suits your own holiday plans.


Have a great summer vacation, Chiefs!

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