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Tips for planning a stress-free holiday

12th July 2018 | Beverly Landais

It is not easy to disengage from work yet taking time off is vital. Sacrificing holiday time can impact your emotional and physical wellbeing as well as be detrimental to professional performance. Research indicates that just six days away triggers genetic changes which dampen stress, boosts the immune system and lowers levels of proteins linked to dementia and depression (Epel et al., Icahn School of Medicine, Harvard Business School - 2016).

We all know how good we feel after taking a proper break. However, according to the results of a recent survey by Glassdoor, two in five UK employees (40%) took a maximum of just half of their annual leave entitlement during the past holiday year. What is more, 23% of those on holiday regularly checked their email, and 15% continued doing some work out of fear of being behind on their return and of missing targets. The online study involved 2,000 full and part-time employed adults and took place in April 2018 (Adam McCulloch, Personnel Today, May 2018)

The truth is we get so caught up in our work that we forget how to wind down and fully relax. Unless we make a plan to ensure otherwise, it is not surprising that work intrudes on personal time. Here are five tips to help you plan and enjoy your holiday without feeling stressed about work. 

Prepare for your holiday as you would a critical work matter. After all, it is just as crucial to your work performance as having a stress-free break will refresh and recharge you. Write a list of ‘things to do before I go.’ Then block out time in your diary running up so that you can work through them. Mark the ‘last day before holiday’ in your calendar and use the time to tie-up loose ends. Why not set up a folder called ‘post-holiday priority act’ then move into this anything you will need to deal with upon your return. Being well-organised, you will find it easier to relax.

Try time chunking to get organised before you go. The technique works because it enables you to maintain focus on whatever you choose to do during the allotted time (try four rounds of 25-minute sessions, each separated by a 5-minute break. Set a timer and use your breaks to get away from technology. Move around, take a walk, drink some water). Marvel at just how much you can achieve with a single focus on one task at a time.

Share your plans with colleagues and clients well in advance. Make sure your team know the status of current matters, what is on the horizon and how to contact you in an emergency. Think about what you can delegate and to whom. Let clients know you will be away and who will be holding the fort. Discuss what is coming up and agree on the actions upon your return. Clients take summer holidays too, so it can be an excellent opportunity to build the relationship by catching up with them when you are back. 

Get savvy with technology. Decide just how connected to work you need to be when you are away. If you are going to check emails, do so at specific times. Set up an ‘out of office’ message indicating when you will be back and whom to contact in your absence. Consider setting up ‘rules’ to direct that regular emails such as sector updates or association news bulletins into a specific folder. That way you can keep your inbox under control and choose when you wish to catch up on general reading.

Choose how you focus the mind. Once you have got away, have fun! Take literature you want to read and plan activities you’d like to do. Experiencing something new is an excellent way to take your thinking to an entirely different place and get some perspective. Happy holidays!

(This blog first appeared in the Bar Marketing newsletter - July 2018)

12th July 2018 | Beverly Landais

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