Relaxing, recharging and renewing are pieces of advice that are easier to give than to receive. Loved ones often encourage their family and friends to get a little “R&R” by treating them to spa services, such as massages. But what happens when those providing relaxation services are feeling burned out?
Taking a break is a necessity, not a luxury. A day off leads to increased energy, inspiration and—most importantly to project managers—productivity. Taking time leaves you with refreshed energy, which will, in turn, benefit your whole team, your clients and even your boss.
Before you check out, there is a list of things to check off, so your work continues to move in your absence. This will alleviate stress and prevent a work pileup from greeting you upon your return.
Here is a “Time-Off Prep List,” so you can take a much-needed time out.
1. Work with your team in identifying upcoming deadlines for the next couple of weeks and allow them to take on what they feel they can handle during your absence. By including them in your pre-vacation preparations, they will take ownership of their assignments seriously and come through for you.
2. Create project agreements for any new projects that will be in progress while you are away, and check in with your group to see what’s already on their plate. Be sure your team is clear on what they should be accomplishing while you are gone.
3. Provide clear communication boundaries for your team to contact you on your vacation.
i. Can you be reached on your cell phone?
ii. If so, is it for emergencies only?
iii. Will you be checking your e-mail at all or only at a certain times?
iv. Do you only want to be contacted about certain issues?
v. Define these boundaries before you leave so you get some downtime, and your team knows when it is appropriate to contact you. This one is important for your group to agree upon and for you to accept as well. If you know you’ll be itching to call or e-mail the office to see what’s going on, schedule one late afternoon check-in, so you can learn about that day’s events and advise how to handle any issues that have risen.
4. Assign a “while you were out” recap e-mail for you to review when you return from your vacation. This should highlight what took place while you were out, so you are up to speed. Receiving this upon your return can also ease any stress related to being out of the loop.
5. Not office-related but equally important to tuning out, pack some things that have nothing to do with work but have everything to do with escaping reality. It can be a book you’ve been wanting to read, a newly downloaded music playlist or even a craft you’d like to try. Just as long as it indulges the part of your brain that may not get to stretch at work or even during your commute to and from work. Plan your “veg time” wisely and really do something you’ll cherish even when you’re back in the trenches.
6. Last, but not least, find time to laugh. Laughter reduces stress, lowers your blood pressure, lifts depression and even boosts your immune system. Laughter is more than funny, it’s healthy!
Let’s review your prep list once more:
1. Identify deadlines ahead of time, so you can address them before your time off and not during.
2. Helps others, help you. Creating and distributing a project agreement will guide your team and co-workers and help them to stay on track when you or any team member is away.
3. Distribute rules for contacting you during your time off.
4. Assign a “while you were out” recap e-mail, so you can catch up quickly when you return.
5. Pack nonwork-related distractions to catapult you out of reality.
6. Plan time to laugh.
Your confidence in getting things done before and while you are away will enable you to relax, recharge and renew. Pass it on!
Michelle LaBrosse, PMP, is the founder of Cheetah Learning, and author of Cheetah Negotiations and Cheetah Project Management. The Project Management Institute, www.pmi.org, recently selected Michelle as one of the 25 Most Influential Women in Project Management in the World, and only one of two women selected from the training and education industry. She is a graduate of the Harvard Business School’s Owner President Managers (OPM) program and also holds engineering degrees from Syracuse University and the University of Dayton. Cheetah Learning is a virtual company and has 100 employees, contractors and licensees worldwide.