How to Hit the Brakes to take a Spring Break

by Mike O'Neill

Schools shut down for Spring Break – Businesses don’t.

As a leader have you found yourself questioning whether taking time off is worth the effort? If yes, you’re not alone. Over half of Americans leave some vacation time on the table.

Some of the reasons for the lack of vacation include feeling their workload is too heavy or that no one can do their job while they are gone.

While it’s difficult to remove all the stress as you plan to head out of the office, the following strategies offered by Elizabeth Grace Sunders can hopefully set yourself up of success once you return.


When done correctly, going on a vacation can offer a tremendous incentive to get projects done — but you need to plan for it. If you intend to take time off, put a meeting with yourself on your calendar for 3-4 weeks prior to your departure date. Scheduling time weeks before your departure allows you to honestly assess your workload while you still have time to do something about it. If you’re struggling to prioritize when you’re still 3-4 weeks out from vacation, ask yourself what you would do if you only had 1-2 weeks before you left. What you think of in this shorter time frame can become your priority activities, while everything else falls within the would-like-to-do category.

Then block out time on your calendar to complete the must-do items. Make your original plan to complete these items at least a week before you actually leave, so you still have the ability to complete them even if unexpected items come up (which they always do) or tasks take longer than expected. This week of margin before your vacation gives you flexibility to address urgent items and still wrap up.


No matter how good a job you do of getting work in order before heading out, some items will likely need attention while you’re gone. If possible, see if a colleague can take on that role for you so that you can have some real time off. Elizabeth recommend reaching out to your coworkers a week or more in advance to make them aware of what you will need, such as taking care of a specific responsibility or keeping an eye on certain projects. It will typically be clear who is the best person to cover for you, such as a coworker who is already on the same project. But when it’s not, talk with your boss to confirm who would be best.

Once you’ve selected who can help, write up any deadlines and deliverables, as well as contact information for key internal and external stakeholders, clients, and yourself while you’re away. Sometimes you can explain all of this through email, but often it’s best to have a meeting or at least a phone call to make sure that you’re both clear on expectations. If necessary, do quick email introductions between your stand-in and those involved in the work so that there’s a clear handoff. Also, put an alternative contact in your voicemail message and email auto-response when you go away. That way if anything unanticipated comes up, someone knows whom to contact.


Once you’ve figured out what you will do before leaving on vacation and what can be handled while you’re away, clarify what you will not do until you return. Elizabeth recommend having a sense of this in your mind early. But wait until 3-4 days before you leave to make the final call on what’s in or out. By then you should be sure about what you can reasonably accomplish, and you can relay this information to your boss, teammates, and anyone else involved in the work.

It can be uncomfortable to have these conversations, but it’s almost always best to be up front about what to expect instead of leaving people hanging who are expecting something from you, and then having to deal with a mid-vacation crisis caused by lack of communication. Update colleagues on the status of projects and let them know that nothing will move forward until after you get back in the office. Also, give key individuals the heads-up that you won’t be available — or as available — during the time that you’re away.


Unplugging from work for an extended period of time can make some people feel like hyperventilating. And there may be good reasons why you check in with work while you’re away, such as following up on a deal that’s about to close or responding to an urgent, time-sensitive item. If you do decide to check in, set limits. For example, you could spend one hour on work each morning and then stay away from your computer for the rest of the day. Or you could ask a coworker to text you the status of an important project so that you’re informed — but don’t have to open your inbox and get sucked into work mode.

And if you can truly unplug, do. There’s something wonderfully freeing about realizing the world can and will keep turning without you. Being completely disconnected from work has many benefits including lowered stress, improved sleep, enhanced connections with others, and improved concentration and creativity. It helps us remember that our jobs really can go on without us — at least for a while. And it reminds us of the importance of life outside our work. This not only can make it less stressful to disconnect the next time you take time off but can also help you with day-to-day decisions like spending an evening at home on a weeknight without checking work email.

By following these strategies for completing work and being away from the office, you can reduce the pre-vacation stress and relax more once you’re away.


SOURCE: How to Invest Your Time Like Money – Elizabeth Grace Saunders



Isn’t it amazing how much stuff we get done the day before vacation?

Zig Ziglar

A vacation is what you take when you can no longer take what you’ve been taking.

Earl Wilson

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