How to prepare to leave work for vacation

Back in July I posted this article on LinkedIn on how to prepare at work before you head out on vacation. 

It’s always surprised me to see folks leave for vacation and not tie up their loose ends before they left. Vacations aren’t a surprise.  You know they’re coming. In fact, so often we are counting down the days until we are beach bound. 

Here’s the post that I originally posted to LinkedIn.

So…you’ve been counting down the days until you’re email free and sitting on a beach or hiking a trail on your well-deserved holiday. Just before you run out the door and put an umbrella in your drink, I’d recommend taking some time to make sure you’ve left things at work in a good place so that you can really enjoy your break. The worst is being away and realizing that you didn’t do something before you left; or even worse, returning back to work and being bombarded with issues and problems as soon as you turn your computer back on.

Here are a few things I do to prepare for vacation that I would recommend.

1.      Make a to-do list: Sounds easy right? Well, it is! The week before I am set to leave, I write down all of the big and little things that I need to wrap up at work before I leave. Sometimes we think we should just knock off the big projects, but I disagree. Those little to-dos can turn into big ones if you let them fester while you’re away. As you count down your days, you’ll also see your to-do list get smaller and smaller and that will feel like you’ve really worked hard to finish your work.

2.      Have a designate: It doesn’t matter if you are a boss type or a worker type – someone  should be assigned to monitor your files in your absence. When a colleague or client has a question, they should still be able to get the answer and finish their work in your absence. If you supervise staff, make sure they also know who they can go to if they have a problem while you’re gone.

3.      Brief down: This is really important if you have a team and if you have a particular project or file that needs attention in your absence. I always plan a team meeting the day before I leave for vacation. I’ll use this meeting to go over outstanding actions and projects and outline priorities for the team while I’m gone. I also use this meeting to make sure my team understands that I am empowering them to work hard and make decisions to the best of their abilities while I’m gone. My mantra is if we make a mistake we can always fix it, and that I trust that they’ll make decisions as best they can with their colleagues in my absence.

4.      Brief up: I also always prepare an email to my boss with an update about what projects my team is currently working on and what priorities they’ll have while I’m away. This ensures my boss isn’t left wondering what’s happening in my absence. No need for her/him to worry that I’ve dropped the ball for a couple weeks. They should know they can engage with my designate and my team in my absence.

5.      Use your out of office: This may seem obvious, yet many people leave in a rush and don’t put a message on their voicemail and email saying that they are on vacation and who can be contacted in their absence. An out of office message helps to ensure that projects and issues keep moving while you’re on the beach. I usually get these ready before the end of the day. This way I don’t forget to do it before I go and I don’t feel flustered as I’m running out the door. (Especially as in my current role these messages need to be both in French and English!)


Everyone deserves a break. In fact, a quick Google search brings up thousands of articles about the health and economic benefits of taking vacation time.  I’ve always believed that if you can’t leave work because you fear your work and teams won’t be successful in your absence, then you aren’t managing your work and your teams effectively. With a little planning and preparing before you go, you should be able to relax and enjoy your time off.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s