Monday, June 18, 2012

Be Proactive and Avoid the Post-Vacation Job Stress

By Peg McQuarrie, ACC
Certified Professional Coach

Henry Ford said, “Before everything else, getting ready is the secret to success. “

You may be preparing for fun in Disneyland in June, hiking in Yellowstone in July, spending time by the lake in August, or lounging at home in September.  There’s nothing like summer vacation when we get to sleep late, rest up, visit new places, enjoy new challenges, and spend time with family and friends.  While I’m guessing that most of us plan well for our trips, there’s more to a successful summer vacation than buying the plane tickets, mapping the roads, scheduling campgrounds, and packing the bags. 

However you enjoy your precious time away from work, if you find yourself leaving for vacation with unfinished business, spending half your vacation checking and responding to email, or coming back to a stressful mess that takes weeks to clean up, you may be wise to apply Henry Ford’s advice at work before you head out for your time off. 

Take charge of the process!
First, take a deep breath, relax, and remember that vacation can be fun, and preparing for it can be fun too!  Imagine the outcomes you want for your vacation.  See yourself on the beach, kayaking the river, hugging Mickey and Minnie; imagine how you’ll feel taking in that Broadway show, resting in nature, connecting with people you care about.  Plan from a place of enthusiasm and expectation, and take charge.
·         Remember that you are responsible to your employer, your coworkers, and your customers in how you manage your time off.  Also, remember you are responsible to yourself and to your family in how you balance time spent at work and outside of work.  Your consideration of all involved can make a big difference in the outcome.  
·         Think back to past vacations, to the times when everything went well as you left work for vacation; when you had fun being on vacation; and when you returned to an orderly workplace and merged back in a positive way.  What did you do ahead of time to ensure those outcomes?  Who else helped make it all happen?  What strengths did you call on?  What resources did you use?
·         Remember back to past vacations when things didn’t go so well.  Maybe you ran out of your office door at midnight, exhausted, full of anxiety about what didn’t get done (or done well); or you felt the need to check your email every day and make calls back to the office, overlooking your family – and yourself – more than once; or maybe you returned to a mess at work that took countless hours to sort out.  What caused this to happen?  What did you do or neglect to do that created these results?
·         After you’ve examined your past actions and results (leaving aside blame of others and guilt for action and inaction on your part), what made the difference?

Be Proactive
Make some time away from work to think ahead.  From your own experience, make a list of all the things you might plan, organize, and do that could pave the way for a relaxing and restorative vacation.  Does your list include some of the following?
·         Let your customers and people at work who depend on you know in advance when you’ll be gone.
·         Create partnerships with co-workers to help each other out during vacations.  Is there a coworker who can field questions and requests from others in the organization and/or from customers while you are gone?
·         If possible, do a little extra work ahead of time on your projects.  Make a list of your projects that are in process and think about how they might be impacted by your absence.  Speak with your team members and supervisor about how things can move forward without you and what can stay “on hold” until you return.
·         Leave your physical and virtual space clean: clear out your email account; file; put away evidence of your projects and leave your desk-top empty and shiny.
·         Make use of the “out-of-office assistant” email function and the incoming voice message on your phone; leave messages letting incoming callers know who to contact in your absence.  (Safety alert: take care who you tell that you will be way from your home.  No need to signal that the house will be empty for a prolonged period.)
·         If you are a sole entrepreneur, seek out others in your line of work who can assist your customers while you are away.  Some years ago, my hairdresser traveled to Australia for an extended period and offered the names of other stylists who she trusted to her customers.
·         If possible, allow yourself an extra day at home before returning to work – decompress, rest, or reorganize your home life a bit after being away.
·         When you walk back through your office door, take one thing at a time, even if everything comes at you in a rush.  Make a list as things come at you, and prioritize.

Go with the flow and enjoy your time away from work
Plan ahead as well as you can, and then let it all go.  Turn off the smart phone and laptop - practice “being in the moment” while on vacation, and just have fun!  While most of us spend the majority of our waking hours at work, each of us is more than the work we do.  Vacation is a time to remember who we are, and to connect with ourselves, those we love, and the whole of our human experience. 

Wishing each of you a happy and safe vacation!

About the Author: 
Peg McQuarrie is a certified professional coach and the owner of WellSprings Consulting.  Her passion is to support others as they step into the successful, meaningful, authentic lives they are meant to live!  For almost 20 years, she has helped individuals and work groups maximize their potential and achieve personal, business, and organizational success.  Her services include individual coaching, specialized coaching for facilitators, team coaching for work groups, and organizational consulting.
Peg earned her Masters in Education from Northern Arizona University and received her coach training through the Adler School of Professional Coaching.  She is certified by the International Coach Federation.   Learn more at

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