Time Management Expert Discusses The Importance of Taking Holiday PTO

Time Management Expert Discusses The Importance of Taking Holiday PTO
via clockwise

You deserve a break!

With the holiday season approaching, many people plan to take PTO from work so they can travel or spend time with their families. Taking or asking for PTO can feel awkward or burdensome, but we're here to help. We've spoken with time management coach and expert Anna Dearmon Kornick about the importance of taking PTO during the holidays, tips on asking for PTO, and why employers should encourage holiday PTO. Anna Dearmon Kornick is Head of Community at Clockwise, a smart calendar assistant that frees up your time so you can focus on what matters, so she knows what she's talking about when it comes to time management.

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1. Are there smart steps an employee can take ahead of leaving for PTO (without trying to complete everything they'll be missing in advance, of course!) that can help mitigate return-to-work anxiety on the flipside of their vacation?

The key to avoiding return-to-work anxiety begins long before you set your Out of Office message. Once you’ve finalized your PTO dates:

  1. First, take stock of your current projects that are in motion. Scan your task list, your project management system - wherever your to-do’s live - and create a quick, high-level list of everything you’re working on.
  2. Next, talk with key team members, collaborators, or project partners about their upcoming availability. If any of your current projects require collaboration, you’ll want to incorporate your team’s availability into your Out of Office prep plan. Communication is key, and definitely don’t assume that you’re the only one with plans to be offline during the busy holiday season.
  3. Then, decide what “enough” or “done” looks like for you. It’s so important to have a stopping point in mind in order to combat Parkinson’s Law. Parkinson’s Law states that “work expands to fill the time allotted.” If you don’t decide in advance what “done” looks like, you’ll be tempted to keep working through your PTO or you’ll spend your precious days off worrying about work you could be doing. Nip the worry in the bud by deciding what “done” looks like.
  4. Finally, working backwards from your last day in the office, put together a simple plan for each of your projects that incorporates your team’s availability for collaboration and helps you arrive at “done” on time and ready to close your laptop.

One last tip here: When you set your Out of Office message, be sure to communicate:

  • When you’ll return
  • Whether you’ll be checking or responding to email while you’re away
  • Expectations for when you will respond
  • Who they can reach out to for assistance in your absence

2. What might you ask of your employer or manager in order to help with this?

Priorities tend to shift around the holidays. For some, this means that work slows down to accommodate busy schedules. For others, it means ramping up and moving even faster. Talk with your manager in advance to make sure that you’re aligned on priorities. That way you’re focusing your days prior to being on leave on the projects that matter most.

3. What practices should you do (or not do) during your vacation in order to reduce stress about your return to work, and preserve those last few days/hours of PTO?

As a time management coach, I believe that time management is not one size fits all, and managing work-related stress is the same. I’m not going to tell you to never check your email during PTO. I won’t advocate that you do zero work while you’re off the clock. I will, however, encourage you to do what feels right to you. If a daily email sweep helps you feel calm and on top of things, let yourself have that sweep. I’d encourage you to set a timer for 5 or 10 minutes, so you’re in, out and back to enjoying your time off.

4. Any other tips about actually making the most of PTO when you have it, in order to avoid burnout?

The key to avoiding burnout during PTO begins with setting boundaries in advance and clearly communicating them. Don’t wait until you’ve closed your laptop to consider your boundaries, because if they’re not clear and haven’t been communicated - they might as well not even exist. I encourage you to start thinking now:

  • What am I willing to do during my PTO?
  • What am I NOT willing to do during my PTO?
  • What constitutes an emergency?
  • What can wait until I return?

When you identify and articulate your boundaries in advance, not only are you taking a step to combat decision fatigue, but you’re also much more likely to hold firmly to them when something does inevitably pop up.

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