Monday, 30 September 2019

Avoiding post-holiday overload

Taking a break is essential for our well-being, but avoiding a work avalanche on our return is equally important. Organising our work to avoid an over-flowing, screaming pile of overdue tasks on our return is one way to ensure the benefits of our holiday benefit us longer than 8am on the first day back.

While we could pick away at our tasks all the way through our holiday, that is not a solution. It shows our own poor management. Instead we can focus on making ourselves dispensable. We can do that by doing a bit of planning:
  • -4 weeks, prioritise. Organise our open tasks and projects and determine what has to be pushed on, and what can wait while we are away. Then have a discussion with our manager about who might have capacity for elements which must progress.
  • -3.5 weeks, comms routing. Check our comms rules are well-organised. For example that our phone routes to the right person, that our email sub-folder rules are working as we would like to have them (ie, organised in order of importance, customer emails in a focused mailbox, information only or newsletter emails routed elsewhere, appointment receipts automatically filed or deleted, spam folder automatically emptied, etc) 
  • -3 weeks, assign. Break important task assignments into small, manageable chunks and negotiate with other staff members and the manager as to who will pick up those chunks.
  • -2 weeks, manageable chunks. Do a coffee catch up perhaps once a week in the two weeks leading up to our break with each person managing a chunk. Follow up each session with a short file note email detailing the discussion. Create an email to go out on the day before we leave to all parties about the project management process in our absence.
  • -1 week, document.  Document who is looking after each element. Have one key person able to assign urgent queries to the person who is most likely to have some information. 
  • -2 days, email triage. Set up a calendar appointment for our first day back to do email triage for the first two hours so we make room for catching up. Set up quick progress update meetings with each of our colleagues who are handing chunks for us, and the key person about any unexpected requests. This allows the first day back to give us a full status update.
  • -1 day, out of office. On the last day, load Out of Office messages on our comms systems (email, phone, media platforms) with the key person's details. Ensure we automatically decline all meeting invitations while we are away.
  • The holiday. Perhaps - if we are an early riser/night owl - if we have access and if we have downtime while we are on holiday we could do a couple of quick checks of our comms channels. Waiting at airports is usually a good time for this as our time online is usually limited... but checking in should not be a habit. We are on holiday, after all!
Remember, the graveyard is full of indispensable people (Cheever, 2004, p. 136, citing Norman Peale). Let's make ourselves dispensable



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