I don’t know about you, but I miss traveling most of all. I love going to the beach, feeling the sun on my face and breathing in the salty air. I also love traveling to resorts that have amazing golf courses.

It’s as if the world falls away for a few hours while I spend quality time with my husband on the golf course. Although I’m not sure he finds that time as wonderful as I do. He’s a much better golfer than me and would prefer golfing with better players. But he’s stuck with me. 

With COVID-19 in the mix, travel has become a challenge. Is it safe? Depends on who you listen to. But even when working from home, it is a good idea to use your vacation time and get away from that home office. It provides a much needed mental break.

I found a great article on some COVID-19 friendly vacation ideas, and I’m sharing it here with you. It’s my hope you’ll be able to find a small get-away this summer as quarantine is subsiding.

And on that note, I’ve prepared 3 things to do at work before going on vacation so you can unplug without adding stress. You know how it goes, vacation ends up ruined because you’re too focused on work. It happens too often. But this year especially with all the craziness around, we’re all in need of respite. And even if travel is out of the question, a staycation can help keep you sane. I’ll admit, it’s not as good as getting away, but it sure is better than working. Even when we love what we do, it’s important to take a break. 

Here’s how you can make the most of your time away from the office without getting too far behind on your work. 

1. Schedule a vacation planning session

I don’t mean what you’ll do with your family to plan the trip. I mean a vacation plan for your work while you’re gone. 

Start by scheduling 1 – 2 hours where you can take a helicopter view of your current projects. You’ll want to look at where each project is, what the deadlines are and what’s most likely to fall apart if you’re away. 

This becomes your focus list. The focus list is the critical mass of work. The projects on the focus list will have a serious financial or other consequence if it gets behind. The assumption is that the rest of your projects are longer term and will need attention when you return. But they won’t fall into disaster mode if ignored for a week or two. 

Now, take a look at the focus list and divide it into two categories:

Category 1:

The first is to list the project items that you’d do if you were present but that you can delegate.

Category 2:

The second list is the items that you can’t delegate and can’t wait. 

Once you get through the focus list and have it broken into categories, start delegating. Delegate small portions to a few people so you don’t overwhelm one person. Be clear in the request, ask for a commitment, and trust them to come through. This prevents you from having a long list for yourself of what to do before going on vacation.

You’re now left with a list of tasks that you can’t put on hold. And you’re going on vacation. So, how does that work? Eye roll. 

2. Block time for your vacation

Before you go on holidays, understand how you’re going to block time for your vacation. This means that since you have no choice but to do some work while ‘unplugged’, you set boundaries. Commit to spending no more than 2.5 hours each vacation day doing work-related tasks.

You’ll block that time. Maybe you spend the first hour and a half of every morning doing project tasks. Schedule that time. Set the timer. Get up before the rest of the family. Find a private space where you can work uninterrupted. And pound out what you need to do. It’s a good idea to use 15 minutes of this time to check in on the delegation. See if everyone is on task. Then when the timer goes off, stop. No matter where you are, stop. 

Then block off 30 minutes at midday to check priority only emails. Your autoresponder should be set up before you leave. It will respond to all emails with an auto message. You’ll say you’re away from the office but will check emails each day between 12:00 p.m. and 12:30 p.m. (timezone).  Tell them you’ll respond only to high priority emails. If the email needs immediate attention, you’ll provide a name of who to contact instead of you. 

The final block of 30 minutes later in the day is to tie up loose ends that you didn’t get to finish in the first two blocks. You might need to respond to a few emails or wrap up a project task. You’re not trying to get things finalized on vacation. You’re trying to keep them from blowing up. So it’s minimal attention, okay? This is your vacation. The only reason for spending time on work is so you can relax the rest of the time. 

3. Understand how you want to spend your vacation

When you’re not in your work block, don’t work. Don’t respond to texts.  Don’t take calls.  Practice mindfulness. Be present on your own vacation.

Even if you’re at home. Walk away from your computer and take a bike ride or go for a walk. Whatever it is you plan for your family time, enjoy it. Ask yourself how you want to show up for your family for this activity and then do that! 

One thing we know for sure is that 2020 will be a year to remember. Social distancing is now part of your vocabulary. And you’re likely hoping homeschooling doesn’t follow you to 2021. This year will go down in your memory as one to tell the grandchildren. So try to make the most of it and do your best to unplug. Your trip this year might not be as far away or exotic as you’d hoped, but it’s one you will remember.

Are there other things to do at work before going on vacation that are important in your world? Make sure to tackle them BEFORE you next head off or unplug.

If you want more balance in your life and work like my clients, let’s jump on a call. I’m happy to discuss your circumstances with you to see if coaching is a good fit.

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Cynthia Corsetti is an Executive and Career Coach. Whether you’re looking for a career transition or to make a bigger impact in your current career, Cynthia is the partner you’re looking for. Follow her on FacebookLinkedIn, and YouTube.