Those who take time off these days don’t have less work. He or she simply does the work at a different time. If you only want to take a week off, you first have to prepare everything – and then rework everything that has accrued during that time.
But if the work concentrates before and after the break from the job, then it gets a bland aftertaste. And some people already dread the first day of work on Thursday in the sun lounger. Others also work slavishly through their e-mails on vacation so that it doesn’t get too much when they return – or because there is always something urgent to do.
All of these phenomena are symptoms of the same problem: the vacation was not planned and prepared well enough. A smart strategy will help you enjoy your vacation more.
Most people are powerless against one aspect of modern work: they are irreplaceable. This is true for the self-employed anyway, but also for many employees because companies do not plan with illness or vacation time. And then just looking at the workload of the first few days destroys any relaxation.
Holidays rarely come as a surprise. The standard procedure should look something like this: Anticipation, anticipation, anticipation (!!!!) – Oh dear, I still have so much to achieve – Oh dear! Is that exhausting, that is going to be tight – what can I postpone for the time after that? Aaaah … finally after work – I’m out.
The elements of a good holiday burnout strategy
And so it’s no wonder when the stress level peaks right before and after the vacation. But that poisons leisure time. It can be done smarter.
Plan for the long term
The first step is simple: Establish early what needs to be done and when so that you can start relaxed. Ideally, you consider the penultimate day as the last real working day. This leaves buffer time and you can still tick off administrative issues. If you plan very well, you can already prepare work steps that arise after the vacation – but only if this does not result in any further time pressure.
Reduce the workload early
Instead of rushing out of the job, it will be more worthwhile for most people to do a little less a few days earlier so that they can really finish. In this way, you prevent the hectic rush even with externally caused delays. A closed file brings you more peace of mind than two half-edited ones.
Treats free time as an appointment
Time for yourself is time when you are not available. If you treat a vacation or any short break like an important appointment, then give this time the value it deserves. That takes a little bit of rigor.
Communicate openly and confidently
I recently canceled a long-planned appointment shortly beforehand. It was simply the only week in which I had a reasonable time off and the break was important to me. So I told my contact … exactly that. I explained to them in brief words that I would not be working the following week and that our appointment would therefore be postponed. It was a Zoom conversation and he nodded understandingly. Not a moment of irritation – just understanding.
I could have emphasized symptoms of stress, I could have looked exhausted or complained. But in fact, being confident, friendly and giving an honest explanation is the best way to announce breaks. Vacation is also part of the work context and this is exactly how the appearance that announces it should be. However, I would generally advise you not to cancel shortly before. As a rule, this is not even necessary – but it causes unnecessary planning tasks for business partners.
A confident out-of-office message
Some people even stop writing an out-of-office message in their emails. They don’t do it because they know they’ll reply to emails after all, and that makes them uncomfortable. Rightly! Those who are free can take a break from email communication.
A friendly but specific out of office message can help. I’ve been writing for years: “In urgent cases: please find a solution without me.” And yes, that’s how I think. Is that why I lose orders? Probably. But I don’t lose business partners with it. Most people think the news is great, by the way – because they’d like to have a real break.
Make an appointment for communication
I don’t process the emails from the vacation time on the first morning. I work on it on the second or third day, in peace. And not all of them either, because that would simply not be possible. I look at which messages are important or urgent and work on them. I do not work on what is neither important nor urgent.
Make a philanthropic plan
I usually sit down the evening before the week and write myself a plan for the next few days. I get an overview of appointments and tasks and assign them an approximate time frame. So I know what to do when – and what not to do when. It makes me fall asleep better knowing that I don’t have to touch every project by Monday lunchtime.
Take off longer
It may sound counterintuitive, but taking a real break can also help you unwind longer. With only one week of vacation, it is hardly noticeable to the outside world if the daily business wanders before and after the break. And of course the volume of work is not reduced. With three or more weeks, one thing is very clear: You cannot work as much as usual. This creates an income gap for the self-employed; employees have to find replacements. But for that they really have really free time.