Taking A Week Off?  Here Are 10 Things To Do First

Taking A Week Off? Here Are 10 Things To Do First

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?

14 thoughts on “Taking A Week Off? Here Are 10 Things To Do First”

  1. Oh the joys of vacation! Wonderful checklist you’ve got here. Perhaps to add:
    11. Delegate what can be done while you are away.
    12. Leave an emergency contact number (well, incase of anything)

  2. Good points! I may be the last person who receives newspaper delivery, but it is something to take care of before leaving on vacation. Mail delivery is another.

  3. These days I am on a never-ending extended vacation, but not the fun kind.

    When I used to work, one of the things I made sure was to be able to connect remotely when something went wrong. I am not supposed to work on vacation but I was the only person who did the entire software our company was using and if it was down, we would lose hundreds of thousands of dollar. It gave nice job security but I had to be on call on vacation too.

    • Hopefully you were compensated accordingly. And hopefully the business fixed that. It’s never good to have a potential single point of failure.

  4. This is a great list! At my old office job, I would also write a long detailed note of everything I could think of before I left. That way, people would *hopefully* not have to call me while I was away. I still almost always got called at least a few times on vacation, though. Yet another reason that I’m glad I’m not there anymore.

  5. LOL! I love this list.

    I never used to be that organized…at least, not so’s I’d do an actual checklist. I did shovel off the desk: NOTHING could be worse than coming back to a pile of (now superannuated) paper stacked on the desk.

    It’s not like enough new paper isn’t gunna settle on your desk while you’re gone. 😉

    Also, yes, I did set the out-of-office e-mail message, although in the first couple of years of my late great editorial job, I did not, because I continued to check and respond to e-mails, vacation or no. I didn’t take vacations, by and large, anyway.

    Until the university hired an associate editor for my office, I would appoint my most senior RA to run the place when I was going to be gone for any length of time — a couple of conferences took up a week or so, for example. I would instruct this person on what needed to be done, give her or him a heads-up as to what to watch out for, and inform my dean of who would be in charge during my absence.

    Because we all worked year-round and never used our vacation time (the RAs had 12-month contracts with no vacation hours), I managed to engineer a deal with the dean to allow us to shut down the office altogether between Christmas and New Year’s. I doubt if she ever told her vice-president about this — no one was on campus during the winter break, and so no one noticed our absence.

    I would use the time to do the index for the annual volume of Studies in Medieval & Renaissance History from home…and that’s when I began to realize that no one cared where we did the job, as long as we got the job done. That was a useful insight. {cackle!}

  6. I appreciate you sharing these tips. Luckily, I work from home most of the time that’s why I get to follow most of these tips.

  7. I think #10 happens in almost every workcenter. If you don’t have some in stone rules about all leftovers being thrown away before the weekend then people are going to leave stuff behind. I have always taken my leftovers home after bringing them to work so my wife doesn’t yell at me about forgetting the containers. 🙂

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