Professionally and personally, I can attest to the fact that downtime is essential to maintaining productivity. This includes not only taking breaks, but extended time away from routine responsibilities. With school out and lots of us (including me!) seeking a reprieve from the heat, vacation travel is popular this time of year. So, I thought I’d cover some tips and tricks to prep for vacation. Queue the Go-Go’s, it’s time to get away!
Productive Vacation Prepping 101
Let’s start with the why. A poorly planned vacation, while still technically a vacation, can actually increase your stress levels. This, in turn, will decrease your productivity level when you return post-vacation. It’s important to organize and prep for your time away so your investment pays off in full.
This begins with a plan for your absence. If you want to reap the benefits of downtime, you need to truly unplug. I cannot emphasize this enough. Saying you’ll just “monitor” email is not unplugging. Being a point of contact for handoff to someone on your team is not unplugging. Staying up-to-date on progress is not unplugging. I know there will be exceptions. And I understand that some of us have more back up resources than others do. But I encourage you to set up situations that allow you to truly get away.
- Letting your key clients or accounts know ahead of time you’ll be out of the office on specific days. Provide them advance notice so they have a chance to cover any anticipated needs with you before your departure.
- Establishing a point of contact and decision-maker to take lead in your absence. This individual can be tasked with determining what, if anything, you should be contacted for during your vacation. You can set the criteria for contact; but, again, I encourage you to be diligent with your vacation boundaries.
- Setting out-of-office messages for both your email and voicemail. Include the name of an individual (likely your designated point of contact) available to answer any urgent needs. In your email message, note that you will not be checking email during your time away but that you will follow up once you return to work.
Apps that Make Travel More Productive
Now, on to the getting gone part. The robust benefits of going paperless translate 100% to vacation travel. And thankfully, there are several smart apps that make going paperless while traveling smart and simple. Here are some of my favorites in action:
- The Notes App. Using the digital scanning feature (camera icon) within Notes, you can make electronic copies of your important paperwork, including prescriptions, all travelers’ passports and Covid vaccine cards, etc.
- Evernote. I use this app to store and organize all my important digital files. Be sure to make your travel Evernote notebook available offline if you anticipate not having access to wifi during your travels. Evernote is also the ideal tool for planning the trip, as you can jot down notes, link to websites and build itineraries. A colleague of mine recently told me about the value she’s found in storing her travel itineraries, tips and tricks in this free and easy-to-use online document storage solution. She explained she traveled to the Florida Keys last summer and she visited the Big Island of Hawaii a few years back. Not only were her notes, schedules, local contacts and online articles she found helpful leading up to the trip excellent resources for her and her family on the road, they’ve also been shared with countless friends planning their own trips to the same areas. “Sharing is caring,” she reminded me.
- Don’t forget to store the phone number(s) for your credit card company(its) in a safe spot, such as in Evernote, so you’ll have contact information for cancellation in the unlikely event you lose your physical card.
- Your Airline App. If traveling by air, download the airline app before your trip. It will alert you to gate and time changes in real time. From the news I’m hearing daily, this advice appears more valuable than ever for summer travel. And my personal experience supports this. The last two times I’ve flown, the airlines changed my gate three different times after I arrived at the airport.
- Apple Wallet. Finally, don’t rely on paper tickets. If you’re an iPhone user, take advantage of Apple Wallet. It’s the perfect receptacle for boarding passes and show tickets. For airline travel, after you check-in for your flight on your phone, you’ll be prompted to save your boarding pass. Apple Wallet will be one of your options. If you don’t have an iPhone, get a PDF copy of your boarding pass and save it where you can easily access it.
Productively Packing for Vacation
Alas, there is no app for physically packing what you’ll need while on vacation. But, again, a little upfront planning will make the process painless and efficient. Begin by making a list you can work from. I suggest doing this a couple of days prior to when you’ll be packing. This way, you’ll have a chance to revisit the list a couple of times to ensure it’s complete. I also suggest making a digital copy of your packing list for reference should your luggage get lost. Stick it in Evernote.
Packing is highly personal, but here are a few more pointers:
- Consult your schedule to plan your wardrobe, and don’t forget some extras for “just in case.”
- To save space, buy small containers for shampoos, lotions, etc., or spring for travel sizes.
- Remember that rolled up clothing not only saves space, but also lessens wrinkling far better than folding does.
- Remember to pack all prescription medicines. Most anything else can be substituted or purchased if forgotten at home.
- Pack prescriptions and any essentials in your carry-on bag, again, in case your checked bags get lost. (Depending on your final destination, a swimsuit might be another “must-have” you’d likely want while waiting for lost luggage reunification.)
Bonus Gift: We Get a Productivity Boost in the Days Leading Up to Our Vacation
But wait, there’s more! Did you know that the days leading up to your vacation can actually be some of your most productive ones? It’s the classic deadline motivation concept in play. You have a sense of urgency to complete tasks that will get you closer to a desired reward. You’re eager to tie up loose ends and are open to handing off projects to capable hands. So, you can expect to enjoy this bonus productivity on top of your actual time off. It’s vacation win-win.
Productive Prepping Ensures Smooth Sailing
When you productively prep for your vacation, you set the stage for truly stress-free time away from your responsibilities. A little upfront planning and organization enables you to get down to the business of enjoying and relaxing on your vacation. And the great thing is, the benefits will continue upon your return. Because time away recharges your batteries and renews your focus, bolstering your productivity. To fully capitalize on the benefits, check out these tips for easing back into work upon your return. Bon Voyage!
Sara Genrich is a Productivity Consultant, an Evernote Expert and the creator of the Organizing@Work for Success Workshop. She’s committed to providing real-life solutions so her clients have time to focus on the things that really matter.