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Reducing Work Effort During Vacations

For many people, vacations are a time away from work.  In fact, there are certain industries where employees are required to take their vacation and their access is actually shut off.  I have found in our industry, working during vacations is fairly common, especially for agency principals, producers, and managers.  As an insurance consultant, it can be hard for me to walk away for a week without doing any work. As I write this, I’m actually on a two-week vacation on Cape Cod and then Narragansett RI, but I’m still getting some stuff done during our downtime.  Finding the balance between enjoying the time away from the office and making sure we don’t lose a big client or sale can be difficult. It would be great to be able to get away for a week without feeling like things are going to go wrong.

Here are some tips on trying to set up your vacation for more success:

Pre-Vacation Effort and Organization

Spending some time getting organized during the weeks before a vacation is essential to a good vacation strategy.  In Eat That Frog, Brian Tracy states ‘Every minute you spend in planning saves 10 minutes in execution; this gives you a 1000 percent Return on Energy!’.  Too often, people just jump into their work with no plan. This has been proven to be a very inefficient strategy.

Before heading out on vacation, identify what needs to be done beforehand.  Create a plan for when each item needs to occur. Determine what needs to be done before you head out on vacation and what can be deprioritized to wait until after vacation.

We always work very hard the week before going on vacation.  In fact, we are typically the most current when we walk out the door headed toward vacation.  If you add a little more organization around this effort, you will be even more current or, perhaps, ahead.

Back-ups, Delegating, Outsourcing

One more long-term strategy is creating a better process for when you are not available.  This is known as an “HBAB” (Hit By A Bus) plan or, less morbidly, a “WTL” (Win The Lottery) plan.  If, for some reason, you unexpectedly weren’t in, what would happen? Heading out on vacation is actually easier because it is scheduled.

If you have strong back-up procedures in place, have delegated work that can be done by someone else where possible, and use outsourcing where it works, you can reduce the effect of your unavailability, whether it is scheduled or unexpected.

Prioritizing During Vacation

If you have made the decision to do some work during vacation, make sure you are spending that time doing high-value and high-urgency work.  The things that are a low priority can wait until you get back or send them to someone else to complete. Use your time wisely and focus on the items that are going to have a high impact.

Making the decision on what this means for each person is an individual one.  Some ideas are:

  • Just do a cursory review of your email each day.  Only respond to the highly important ones. Be sure to have your auto-responder on so people know you are unlikely to get right back to them.
  • Don’t have any suspenses, open tasks, or follow-ups in your agency management or CRM system due while you are out.  Complete the ones you can and assign the rest for when you return.
  • Talk to your staff and co-workers about how to reach you if something is urgent; e.g. If you need me when I am on vacation, an email probably isn’t going to be enough.  I may see it; I may miss it. If you call or text me, I will respond.

Time Blocking

While time blocking during vacation may seem counterintuitive to enjoying a relaxing time, it actually has tremendous value in preventing work from seeping into vacation time.  I like to block off from 9-11 when I am planning on working during a vacation (I don’t always work during vacations, but sometimes I do). This allows me to book appointments and focus on work during those times.  It also allows me to get up with the kids, have breakfast, and figure out our day before sitting down to work. It is also appreciated by my wife to understand when I am going to be focused on work as we schedule what we are doing for the week.

Before heading out on vacation, you should make a proactive decision regarding whether you are going to be doing any work or not.  If so, make a plan before you head out and stick to it. You’ll get more work done and enjoy your vacation time more!

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