The ultimate pre-vacation checklist | Ladders

Your future self will thank you.
Off Hours

The ultimate pre-vacation checklist for an anxiety-free holiday

As the President of the United States heads out on his vacation, you’re probably thinking about yours too. Whether it’s a beach or an incredible new city to explore, you’re picturing all the relaxation you’ll do an all the email you’ll ignore. But before you walk out the door, there are a few critical things you need to do so you can actually enjoy your vacation while also not stressing out when you get back to the office.

Here are six steps to take before you head out for that perfect vacation.

Delegate work to others

It’s tempting to fall into the work-martyr dream of letting your colleagues see what it’s like to function without you. But if you are even the least bit useful in your job, it will create utter chaos if no one at all does the tasks you usually do. Things will get backed up, people will get stressed, and they’ll get mad at you for taking a vacation when they need you. They may also track you down wherever you are and force you to do that work anyway. So if you don’t want to handle a last-minute client project while you’re trying to soak up the rays, it’s crucial to be practical and delegate work to your various team members before you go anywhere.

In the days leading up to your vacation, meet with your co-workers and clearly explain any responsibilities you’ll need them to take on while you’re away and how their own roles may be affected by your absence. Hand over any information that’s necessary to get those tasks done (for instance, account login information), and don’t forget to factor in the day or two it’ll take you to get back into the swing of things when you return and may need extra help.

Set up a detailed email autoresponder and/or voicemail

While you can always add a little personality into your email autoresponder (“I’m away on a tropical beach somewhere!”), the best autoresponders include the following information: How long you’ll be gone. When the person emailing you can expect a reply or action

The name and contact information of the person on your team who can be contacted if it’s an urgent matter

If you’re completely out of ideas, here is the perfect out-of-office email response, from one of the most brilliant executives we know.

If you have your own phone line at your office and are going to be gone for a significant amount of time, remember to also record a new voicemail message.

Clean up and organize your office space

While we want to just up and leave everything to embrace the relief of vacation, set aside 30 minutes to organize your desk a little. Coming back to a clear desk and an empty trash can is a beautiful thing and will significantly reduce your , so take the extra five minutes before you go to file away any papers, throw away takeout containers and wipe down your desk and computer.

Another pro tip: If there’s any important information your team may need access to while you’re away (like client contracts or account passwords, for example), leave out a sticky note with that info to avoid a frantic “What’s the login for our Twitter account?!?!” email.

Set clear expectations and boundaries

How much time will it take you to respond to any urgent work emails? Is there a specific time of day when you may be online to chat for a bit? Is it okay for colleagues to go into your filing cabinet while you’re away to look for something? These are the types of questions you need to answer for your team before you pack up and leave.

And while expectations are important, it’s also critical to set boundaries pre-vacation. If you’re going to unplug during your entire vacation or will only respond to emails at specific times, let your team know.

Plan for work emergencies

If your team has no other choice but to go for the nuclear option when you’re not there, what should they do? Give specific and action-oriented instructions for what to do in the event of a major problem.
Most importantly, set very clear expectations of what constitutes an “emergency,” and keep the list of emergencies short. You don’t want colleagues calling you panicked over an arbitrary Excel typo.

Look ahead before you leave

We’re all guilty of getting so caught up in the pre-vacation fervor that we forget that we eventually have to come back from vacation at some point. If you don’t want to be crying at your desk upon arrival, address your post-vacay to-do list before you head out.

Check your calendar for any important deadlines that come up right after you come back to work. Is there anything you can do in advance to ease your workload in the future? Are there deliverables that need to be taken care of while you’re away?

If you want to make your vacation a truly relaxing and enjoyable experience, take the extra time at work to get your ducks in a row. Your future self will thank you.

Lily Herman

Lily Herman is a New York-based writer, editor, and social media manager whose recent bylines include Fast Company, Forbes, Cosmopolitan, Newsweek, ELLE, Teen Vogue, and TIME. You can check out her personal website and find her perpetually on Twitter.