Dear Life Matters,

I will be taking a three week vacation later this summer. While I am really excited about getting away from the office, I am already dreading what I might come back to because unfortunately my work does not take a break when I do. I would like your recommendations as to what I can do now to make the transition back to the office as smooth as possible.

Signed,

Voyager

Dear Voyager,

Taking a break from work is beneficial to both your work productivity and your personal well-being. Being able to truly shutoff and relax during your time away from the office is especially important. I am glad to hear that you are already thinking about steps you can take now to make the most of your time off.

Start by clearing out your inbox. Filing away old e-mails and categorizing your messages can be a great way to organize yourself before taking off. Just imagine how great it will feel to leave for vacation with an empty inbox! This will also make it easier once you return to the office as you will only need to deal with new messages that have come in during your time away.

Like your inbox, cleaning off your desk before you leave will help you feel more relaxed when you return. Take time to evaluate your current organizational and filing system to make sure that you are placing paperwork in the space that makes the most sense. Any articles or projects that are still pending should be labeled and placed in a file to be tackled upon your return.

Schedule a team meeting to discuss pending projects and establish who will take over your parts of the project during your absence. Consider what role others on your team might be able to play while you are gone and make sure they have all the resources and materials to move things forward. In addition, consider what steps you can take to close out any pending projects before your departure. A week prior to your trip consider sending follow-up calls or e-mails to colleagues or clients you are waiting to hear back on and make mention of your pending trip to ensure they take quick action on your request.

Determine the tasks that need to be done upon your return before you depart. In the days leading up to your departure, consider compiling a to-do list of things you need to work on when you return from vacation. Include details of what you are currently working on and the current status of each project. Writing down pending tasks will help you feel better about what needs to be done later on and will help you hit the ground running after your break.

A number of people tend to “check in” with the office while on vacation. If you are going to check in with the office during your vacation, make sure to set boundaries around this and stick to your plan. For instance, consider letting your team know that you will check in at a certain time and date. If you decide that you will not be checking in during your vacation make sure that your team members know this in advance and update your voicemail and e-mail to indicate that you will not have access and provide them with another contact person during your absence.

The day before your vacation begins consider turning on your “out of office” messaging a few hours before you actually depart the office. This will manage the sender’s expectations and give you a buffer to only respond to critical messages and allow you to continue on your mission of preparing for your vacation.

KATRINA DAVY, M.A., Ed.M, is a professional career counselor who has worked in university and private settings. She holds degrees from Cornell and Columbia Universities. Visit her online at www.kdcareer.com. Send your questions to newshrink@gmail.com. All questions are kept anonymous; let us help you with your life matters!