It is a cold January evening in Iowa as I begin to write this post and my mind keeps wandering to my upcoming vacation.  My best friend is getting married at Disney World and I will be out of the office for a full week.  I noticed a couple of hours ago that I am quite calm.  This is a little troubling to me because it is quite different from the frantic way I usually get everything accomplished in the three days before going on vacation.  So this begs the question, “what is different this time?”

Upon reflecting, I have identified what I believe are the three contributing factors to my Zen-like state. Try using these tactics next time you plan to leave the office for a planned extended period of time:

Advance warning: My first step in preparing to be gone actually started several weeks ago.  This is when I blocked off my calendar, built my upcoming absence into project timelines, and began mentioning the dates I would be unavailable to the people I work with the most.  This advance communication has enabled everyone to plan accordingly.

Leave instructions:  My mom is a retired English teacher and I remember her writing copious notes for her substitute each time she had a planned absence.  While this may seem like a lot of work upfront, it lessened the chance that she was going to return to chaos.  I believe that we can be too focused on what must get done before leaving on vacation and not give enough thought to what is going to happen while we are gone.  This is why I have a project status sheet completed that gives a brief overview and also outlines the next steps.  I have also have scheduled a meeting on Friday to review this with my team and my manager.  This way, projects can keep moving and I will hopefully have fewer urgent requests when I return.

Remind Yourself that Vacations Help You Rest: One of my good friends has two-year-old triplets and he always struggles with taking time for himself.  He explained that he and his wife work through this by reminding each other that they are better parents after occasionally taking time for themselves.  I am not saying that being away from your family is the same as being away from work, but I do believe that the same concept can apply.  I know that I will come back from vacation refreshed and energized to jump back into my work.

I hope that you can use these tips before your next vacation to prepare yourself for a relaxing time.  And since I know you’ve been wondering . . . No, Mickey Mouse will not be attending my friend’s wedding, but we will meet him at a character brunch the next morning.

How do you set yourself up for a worry-free vacation?