This post is inspired by one of the really cool young female entrepreneurs that I met this fall through the INC 500
Conference and the Extreme Entrepreneurship Tour–the one and only Morgan First! In addition to doing pr and social media consulting, Morgan is the founder of MAP Boston and the marketing and community director at The Second Glass.
Needless to say, Morgan has just a few things on her plate so how to tie things up before she jets off to Asia for the next couple of weeks has been a hot topic. So…
Q: How do you wrap up for the holidays?
A: Under estimate how much you can complete. Over estimate how much time you will need to complete it.
One of the downfalls of being an incredibly positive person is that I always want to plan for the best case scenario when it comes to how much I can get done in a day, especially right before time off. But as I’ve discovered–more than once or twice–it’s better to be a bit of a pessimist when it comes to wrapping up for the holidays or any time out of the office.
Here are some tips to help with the process:
-Plan to get nothing accomplished your last day in the office–i.e. use this day for all of the things you meant to get done earlier, but didn’t.
-If you are leaving on a long trip or have a big backlog, I would even recommend planning on “getting nothing done” for the last week before you leave the office. This will allow you to actually get everything done on time.
-A couple of weeks out, write a list of the most urgent projects that you have to complete before you leave. Focus on those and reschedule everything else until after you get back. If necessary, send an e-mail to other people on the project that sounds something like this:
Hi “Name of Really Cool Colleague”!
I am heading out of the office for the holidays on December 23, and I won’t be back until January 5. I wanted to let you know that I have not forgotten about “Important But Not Urgent Project” and will be in touch with you about it by January 8.
I hope you have a refreshing holiday with your family and friends!
“Really Cool Person With Boundaries and Time Management Skills”
-A few pointers on this note: Don’t offer your mobile phone number. Don’t say you will try to work on anything between opening presents. And don’t promise anything the first day or two you are back. If it’s not urgent, it can wait. But DO make a note to follow up when you said you would.
-Set up out of office e-mail and voicemail and then keep your promises to yourself and others to not check e-mail and not respond to voicemail until you’re back from vacation. Once again, it can wait, and looking at your inbox will unnecessarily raise your blood pressure. (There’s already enough sodium in holiday food to perform that task!)
-I sometimes start my out of office messages a day or so before I leave the office to start warning people that I won’t be available. And I leave up my out-of-office message through the first day I am back. (For example, if I started back to work on December 29, I would leave the out of office going all day on December 29.) This gives you a little bit of a buffer in case it takes you a while to dig through your inbox. It’s all about managing expectations.
-Make your goal to be simply catching up on your first day back in the office. Plan on spending the whole day answering e-mail, returning phone calls, going through mail, and organizing your projects list. I know this sounds boring, but realistically this needs to happen to get your life back in order. If you ignore this advice and schedule meetings or projects the first day you are back, you will probably be frazzled for the next couple of weeks.
-Meeting with people is so much fun but very time consuming and usually not urgent–besides there are plenty of parties this time of year to get in your socializing. I recommend scheduling little to no meetings your last week in the office. This saves everyone’s time. Here’s how to frame this proposition in a way that sounds professional and caring. Just say, “I think it’s best that we meet after the first of the year so that all of the information is fresh in our minds, all of the key players are here, and we can immediately take action. Does that sound reasonable?” To most people, it will, and you’ll be off the hook until you get back.
-If you will need someone to cover for you while you are gone, ask them about taking over specific responsibilites at least a week or two in advance. If you’re asking them to do something unfamiliar, write up detailed instructions and then talk through them at least a couple of days before you leave. Best case scenario is that they start doing these tasks before you split for vacation. This will give them the opportunity to ask you questions when they come across road blocks, give you extra time to wrap up, and lessen the possibility of urgent phone calls while you’re eating green bean casserole.
-If you’re planning on taking a trip, walk through the process in your head from start to finish to make sure that you’ll have everything you need. For example:
I will get up at 5 a.m. and need to leave the house by 6 a.m. (What this means–need to have everything packed the night before, clothes set out for the morning, and coffee pot on a timer.)
My friend will drive me to the train station (What this means–need to look at the train schedule, confirm train fare and make sure I have enough cash. Then I need to talk with my friend and confirm pick up time and directions.)
Continue this process through going to the airport, arriving at your destination and so on. Imagine yourself walking through the day and write down everything you will need and need to know to have it be stress free.
Well, I need to wrap up for the holidays so I’m wrapping up this blog post! But if you have any excellent time strategies on getting ready to leave for the holidays, please post your comments.
Have a brilliant day!