Ah, vacation time.  Whether you’re heading somewhere fun via plane, car, or boat, or staying home, there’s nothing like taking that week off of work.  And nothing like the mad scramble beforehand.

SONY DSCHere are ten things I have learned are must-do items that will get you ready to take your time off, make the time off less stressful, and make things manageable on that first day back.

  1. Out of office e-mail reply – Make sure to set a reply on your e-mail to let people know that you won’t be there.  Include the basics: When you will be gone, whether you’ll be checking e-mail at all, and who should be contacted in your absence (as well as a way to get a hold of that person).  Most e-mail systems nowadays will allow you to schedule this, so you no longer have to remember this as the last thing you do before shutting your computer off.
  2. Change your voice mail greeting – If you get phone calls, let anybody calling know that you aren’t going to be around.  You should probably put a calendar reminder to change this when you get back, otherwise you’ll inevitably be announcing to people that you’re gone, two weeks after you get back.
  3. Leave a note on your keyboard or monitor – If anybody walks up to where you are and they don’t know you’re gone, a note will save them the time of coming back over and over again.
  4. Prioritize items and get as many done as possible – If you can get everything done before you leave, I applaud you.  But, the reality is that many people will leave open items.  Make a list during that last week, and make sure that anything that has a hard deliverable date that’s been promised is done, as well as anything that will cause a disruption if you’re not there to do it.  If you have other tasks outstanding, try to get them at a sensible stopping point so that you’ll be able to easily pick back up when you get back (and inevitably can’t remember where you left things)
  5. Review your calendar – If you have meetings run by others that you are scheduled to attend, let them know that you won’t be there.  If you are the organizer of a meeting, either cancel it or arrange to have somebody else run the meeting.
  6. Change your calendar – If you have a desk calendar or wall calendar, change it so that it will be accurate when you get back.  If a month flips and you come back, either you’ll forget to change it and get your days all wrong, or you’ll be sadly reminded that the vacation is in the past.  Having your calendar set for you will help you get right back to work mode when you return.
  7. Remind your manager that you’re leaving – Chances are your manager approved your request…months ago.  Make sure that they know you’re gone.  Many places have systems or central calendars, but many don’t, and nothing is worse than a manager who forgot all about your time off trying to get something done.  Even though it might be their mistake, you’ll still end up with fallout.  A good way to approach this is to put it in the context of letting them know where things stand and what your plan is for any issues that might need attention.
  8. Inform your co-workers – Don’t be that person that gloats that you’re leaving for a week and that they’ll be stuck there (because inevitably, the weather will suck and they’ll come back in a few weeks and return the favor…and have great weather).  Do let your co-workers know that you won’t be around, especially if there’s a chance that questions or requests might come their way.
  9. Clean your desk – Before I leave for a vacation, I do a top to bottom cleaning of my desk.  All my paperwork is put away.  I wipe down my desk, clean off my monitor, and get everything in pristine condition.  Trust me on this one, it makes coming back a lot less painful.  Nothing is worse than coming back to a messy, disorganized mess.  If you come back to a clean desk, you’ll at least have a little bit of time where you won’t feel overwhelmed.
  10. Chefoilck the fridge – Maybe you went out to lunch on your last day and had leftovers which you stuck in the fridge.  Let’s face it, a lot of leftovers get left behind, but most of the time you can catch it before it starts rotting, taking up space, and generally displeasing the rest of the staff.  Your co-workers will likely be a little jealous that you’re gone anyways.  Don’t give them ammunition to do pull a prank on you.

Readers, what do you do before extended time away?