Don’t let your vacation stress you out

You probably know the feeling.

Your vacation is within reach, but the days leading up to it seem too overwhelming and completely out of control.

You have loads of e-mails that you need to respond to, a number of projects that need to be finalized, and other tasks that need to be delegated to colleagues.

In your gut there is a sense of dread since you feel that everything has to be wrapped up completely before you can leave.

I even have a friend who says that he’s almost ready to give up vacationing altogether, simply because it is too painful to get ready for it.

Sound familiar?

See, the problem is this; in most companies new assignments will keep coming up, so trying to reach the “100% done”-mark means that you need to work non-stop day and night, and even then you may not even get there.

There will always be more to do. More stuff always comes up, more details need to be included and/or a little extra could always be added to certain tasks.

The worst part about it is that you end up starting your vacation with all of your assignments floating around in the back of your mind. As we all know it can take several days to unwind, especially if you don’t reach a certain level of closure before your vacation starts.

And truth be told; your employer is not going to pin medals to your chest for wasting your vacation on worrying about your job. Rather, they probably want you to come back relaxed, well-rested, and ready to go back to work again with a fresh mind.

The secret to how you really get ready for vacation lies, like so many other things, in how well you are prepared.

 Get ready without stress

My tips for you are:

  • Start preparing well ahead of time. If you try to get everything organized with only two days to go, you will most likely have trouble reaching your goal without running frantically.
  • Try to cut a deal with a colleague about handing over some of your projects well before you leave. If you can make the hand off, let’s say a week before your vacation starts, there are several advantages. 1) Your colleague will have an easier time taking care of the task, since you are still there to answer any questions. 2) You are able to concentrate on wrapping up the rest of what’s on your to-do list. If it seems a little odd to ask, remember that the deal goes both ways. Be ready and willing for the hand off when it’s your colleague’s turn to go on vacation.
  • Be realistic in regards to what you want to accomplish before your vacation. For some reason a lot of us seem to think that we can turn into super-beings in this situation and that we are able to get all sorts of projects done. Evaluate your work and if the project can wait, then let it wait.
  • Create a sensible overview of what needs to be done now and what can wait until you get back. Assign dates and actions to everything that needs to be done right after you’re back and add it to your calendar. This way you can rest assured that you don’t forget anything important when you return.
  • Prepare a simple to-do list and place it on the desktop of your computer. This way you can empty your head of activities and actions, which makes it so much easier to actually relax. Then when you return, you are up to speed in no time and can go through your list.

I hope these tips were useful for you and you’re welcome to share your best tips on how you get ready for vacation and unwinding. I’d love to hear them.

Also, don’t forget to subscribe to my newsletter so you don’t miss my next update and post!

~Lise

Blog, Front Page

Keep track of all your projects – free status report download

The biggest challenge for a lot of teams is how to keep track of multiple projects.

By now, I have done quite a lot of work for a company, which makes high tech products in set product cycles.

There used to be some overlap of team participants in each product launch, but once in a while, several projects ran alongside with no overlap. This often resulted in a necessity to ‘reinvent the wheel’ again and again.

What one team was working on was not shared with other teams, often resulting in confusion and chaos.

Sound familiar?

Your own careful planning is practically worthless if nobody else is kept in the loop, so that’s why it’s vital that the information is shared among both team members and between teams.

You can find a multitude of project management tools on-line, but if you don’t know where to start, I strongly recommend an old-school Excel sheet, which, for example, you can save on Google Sites. This way, the sheet is available for everyone involved. All team members can read it and relevant team members can edit it as well.

The trick is of course only to include relevant information. I have seen loads of status reports, which held absolutely no useful information.

Remember:

  • Write a clear status – be specific and concise. Remember that your update should make sense for others as well.
  • Make sure to include a next step for all projects – again concise; who should be doing what and when. This way you can do a short status at the next meeting regarding whether you have succeeded or not.
  • If you go through the list as a group, make sure it doesn’t take forever. The list is not meant to inform about everything around the project, it should only be about what’s relevant for the team.

In order for you to get started, I have uploaded a status report that I often use. Try it out and make changes to it in a way that fits your job.

Click here to download your template

Bonus tip: Even if you aren’t working in a team environment, the list is still extremely useful. It will force you to think ahead and write down actions you need to take at a specific time. Update the list once a week to hold yourself responsible for the progress you make in your projects.

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Blog, Free stuff, Front Page, Managing your projects

We’re so busy that we don’t have time for planning

planning needs to be doneA client actually told me this once…

While I was still working in the advertising business, I often wondered why all our jobs apparently had urgent deadlines. When we got an assignment from a client, they were all accompanied by the comment: “This was actually supposed to have been finished last week, so you can probably understand why this is urgent…”

This makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

A lot of the urgent tasks we were able to identify, the client must have had sitting on their desks for months, but for some reason, they were only sent through the system once it was almost too late. This puts unreasonable amounts of stress on everyone involved in the process, including the client, since everything will obviously late no matter how much you speed up the process. This is not a great way to work, let me tell you that…

The fact of the matter is that there must be time for planning. If you want to let go of the mindless stressing around, you need to do some decent planning so that you are able to see the bigger picture at the beginning of the year of assignments to come. When you do your budgets, you know which campaigns you have planned, and you know the overall goals of the year. This requires you to sit down and plan out the whole year, take note of all important deadlines and milestones and calculate backwards. Suddenly you end up with a nice overview of when you need inputs from different departments, when you need to brief the agency, and so forth.

How do go about it in your company – are you in control of planning?

Blog, Front Page