As I type this blog post, I'm sitting in one of my favorite "mobile offices", the back seat of our family car. We are driving home from our Thanksgiving vacation -- four wonderful days in Las Vegas. No, it wasn't a traditional "at home" meal with extended family this year. Honestly, for a few months I have had the sense that what our family needed was really a getaway with no agenda, just time to hang out and enjoy one another's company. My husband and I have both been keeping hectic work schedules the past few months. Our oldest son is about to launch into a frantic pre-finals schedule at Harvard and our "baby" is in the midst of college apps. So needless to say, we were all tired.
Why not stay home and just take it easy? Honestly, the answer is that we are not very good at that. Because Greg and both have home offices and work schedules that don't pay attention to the regular Monday through Friday calendar, we're not good at "down time" at home. We may say we're going to take time off, but it's likely that one of us will just take a moment to "check email" and then before you know it you're sucked in to the usual flow of things.
So this decision to really take a break and get away was a wise one. Don't get me wrong -- getting ready to be offline for four days was not a picnic. If involved prescheduling content for each of the five websites I'm currently balancing and planning to walk away from the constant rigor of being accessible by email and social media on almost a 24/7 basis. But in the end, I was able to make it work. I'm convinced that this break will provide the greatly needed productivity boost I need moving into the busy month of December.
I thought I'd share just a few tips for planning time off if you're a "work @ home" fanatic like me:
- Start planning early. Look at the work that needs to get done during your absence (if you can't put things on pause) and allow yourself at least as many days as you'll be gone to get that work done. So if you're planning to be gone for three days, allow yourself at least three prep days prior to your time off -- but honestly preferable double the days, since you'll be doing double work during your prep days.
- Alert your key contacts early. Let them know you're planning time away and give them information on how to contact you in the event of an emergency.
- Turn on your autoresponder. Better to let your constituents know that you're away for a few days than to leave them thinking you're simply non-responsive.
- Step away from social media. In a world where "sharing" has become pervasive, it honestly feels pretty terrific to simply enjoy a vacation without worrying about how it will play on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
- Unplug. Seriously. If you can't do it alone, give your spouse your cell phone and laptop and invite them to hide your tools from you for a day or two. If necessary, allow yourself a short time to check in each morning or evening.
- Plan a buffer day or two on the backside. Don't overly schedule your return day to the office. Leave it unstructured so that you'll have plenty of time to get caught up on email, to tidy up loose ends that happened during your time off, and to simply get back in the groove.
Your turn: Have you planned for time off lately? What tips would you offer for taking a break without crushing your overall productivity?