The Art of Taking Vacation

If you are like me, you always have “use or lose” leave because you are too good at utilizing long weekends and holidays to get in little “vacationettes” here and there, instead of longer-duration vacays. So when the time comes to figure out what to do with your leave, you either end of up donating it or trying to plan the vacation to end all vacations. To be clear, if you end up with excessive use or lose leave every year, then that means you are not effectively managing your vacation time and that needs to change.

Now, I am very type A in the sense that when I work, I work and am completely dedicated to what I am doing. In the past, I found myself regularly taking vacation and not ending up with “use or lose leave” but I also found myself not feeling fully at ease on vacation because I was always worried about what was going on in the office. I basically had work “FOMO,” though I hate to admit it.

One day, I finally concluded that work is work and vacation is vacation and never should the two meet. I am a better employee when I return from a good vacation because I have completely disconnected from the office and am in a head space dedicated to focusing on the other aspects of my life – friends, family, health etc. while I am away. That directly impacts my ability to give 100 percent at work.

It took me a while to get to this point and to create a healthy separation between work and vacation, but I did it, and here is how:

1. Let the guilt go. You’ve earned your vacation, so take it. Even more than that, take it guilt free. Vacations are necessary and there is a reason why vacations exist. They exist to help us avoid burnout, to recharge and to be able to focus on our lives, enabling us to return to work and focus.

Remember this, while your contribution at work is appreciated, no one is going to force you to take vacation. It is up to you to regulate your vacation time and to take it. You must be your own advocate. To bring your “A game” to the office, you need to take a break from time to time.

2. If you are gone, be gone. By this, I mean turn off your work phone, DO NOT check email and “go dark.” As important and critical as we feel we are to our offices, believe me, the work will get done and you do not need to worry about it. This is why you designate a backup to cover the period of your absence and you have a “hand over” meeting with them before you head out.

This way, you have absolutely no reason to have your work devices, phone or email on. If there is a true “emergency,” your office will find a way to reach you. Also remember that very few things actually constitute an “emergency.” Bottom Line: TURN IT OFF and LEAVE IT OFF.

3. Plan and schedule your leave. One of the biggest hangups people have about taking vacation is potentially leaving someone else in the office holding the bag for your work. I know this is a pet peeve of mine when it happens to me, so I do my utmost to avoid putting others in this situation.

The best way to avoid this potential trap is to book your leave in advance, socialize it with your office and make sure it is on a shared calendar so that everyone is aware of it and there is ample time to prepare for your absence. That way, your backup is not surprised by your absence and you have time to prepare prior to your vacation, making it easier on the office and ensuring a smooth return for you when the time comes.

4. Set up your out-of-office message. This may seem small, but it isn’t. People need to know when you’ll be back, how long you will be out and who to reach during your absence. This and other details can all be addressed with a solid out-of-office message.

A good out-of-office message can ensure important business does not fall through the cracks and potentially create a mess for colleagues while you are out.

5. Follow up, AKA schedule the in-brief. Before you leave to go on vacation, schedule a time and have it on everyone’s calendar to in-brief soon after you return to the office. I know it is hard to think about returning from vacation before you have even left to go on it, but this is a crucial step for you in terms of being able to hit the ground running and to jump back into work mode more quickly.

Now go take your well-earned vacation and if you follow these tips, your vacation will be the most restful, enjoyable and stress-free time ever. Happy vacationing!

Lia Miller is part of the GovLoop Featured Contributor program, where we feature articles by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Contributor posts, click here.

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Tammy Seleski

You’re right! There is an “art to vacation”, much of which I didn’t know (save for the out of office messages -sooo important!). Thanks for the great suggestions!

Lia Miller

Thank you Tammy. I appreciate the feedback and I fully believe taking vacation is an art form hence the title. I hope the tips are helpful and you enjoy some great vacations in the near future!!