In my last post I wrote about the opportunity I had to take time off and enjoy the benefits it provides. In it I shared that while it can be hard to unplug it is necessary to rest and recharge in preparation for what is ahead. This need for a moment to pause can be easily accepted but more often than not it is the preparation that can be challenging. In truth, sometimes it is the preparation that stands in the way of us taking time off. Specifically with work, many friends and co-workers I know long for time off but find themselves hostage to work and these are some of the questions that paralyze them:
“How can I really be off when my team needs me?”
“Who will handle the current projects and all the work that is involved?”
“What if something happens with our product and it escalates to our leadership?”
A few years ago I would have been intimidated by these questions but over the years I’ve learned to lead well by preparing ahead. In this post I will share some very practical ways one can prepare for time off and set a work life balance that actually allows you to enjoy your time away.
Identifying the most important priorities
We all probably claim to be working on the most important items but that isn’t necessarily true. In the hopes to be efficient we often share attention over multiple areas of work and call it multitasking but when preparing for time off it is important to keep an inventory of all tasks and how they stack up in priority. If a decision needs to be made before you are away from the office that should be handled first.
However, sometimes certain decisions require further investigation which requires time. That is another way how prioritizing your work can be helpful as it helps you anticipate these scenarios. And in some situations you may even require the help of your team while you are away. Letting them know how important a particular task, work, or decision is before being away prepares your team for success.
Trust your team and delegate work
If the saying is true that great leaders raise others up then it is in times like these that we prove it right. When a leader takes time off is when we recognize how much of an impact he or she has had on their team and their ability and confidence to get work done.
Remember that your credibility as a leader is based not just on how much your team trusts you but also on how much you trust your team. And there is no better reflection of trust than when we delegate work; when we give room and space for others to make decisions with confidence knowing there is alignment and support.
Outline and communicate your support matrix
Once you have identified your priorities and delegated work, the final step is to simply communicate the support system put in place while you are away. This is my most practical habit before I take time off and it has served me well for most of my career. It doesn’t require much and an email will do. On the day before I sign out for time off I email my own leaders a list of the priority tasks with enough context on what is happening while also providing the name of the person responsible for supporting that work through while I am away.
This email is really like establishing a “who’s on first” matrix that provides your stakeholders a sense of confidence. This is different from an “out-of-office message” as that won’t include as many details but you can use that function to direct people to who you’ve delegated the work to.
What kinds of actions do you take when preparing for time off. Share in the comments below.