PTO problems: 6 tips to stay organized and ahead of the game

Updated Mar 29, 2018
Don’t let pre- or post-vacation overload ruin the benefits of taking time off.Don’t let pre- or post-vacation overload ruin the benefits of taking time off.

With long holiday weekends and vacation season upon us, it’s easy to get behind in your work. If taking a few days off before or after the upcoming holiday leaves you feeling overwhelmed, take a deep breath. Here are some tips to get your affairs back in order, and some ideas to keep in mind before your next break.

Prep beforehand. Although it may seem as if you don’t have the time to get everything ready for the long weekend before you go, taking the time to get your affairs in order prior to leaving will cut your catch-up time drastically. At a minimum, you need to do the following:

  1. Set your voicemail and out-of-office email alert. Telling people you’re out of the office does more than just letting them know you’re not screening their calls; it sets up an expectation for delay. This gives you more time to deal with the numerous emails and voicemails you’ll have upon your return.
  2. Delegate what you can. If someone in your office can return calls, answer emails, meet with clients and take care of other day-to-day items, you’ll have less on your shoulders. You know your employees’ strengths; let them take care of the areas in which they excel.
  3. Clean out and throw away. This is particularly important if you’re going on an actual vacation – one where you’ll be absent for several days. You’ll be more organized and under less stress if you can easily find what you’re looking for (you can find some tips for organizing your space here), so get rid of junk mail and old papers in both your office and truck.

Once you’re back, feeling refreshed and relaxed, the last thing you need is the stress of feeling overwhelmed. Having an organized approach to dealing with post-vacation work will keep you from wasting time. Follow these steps:

  1. Prioritize properly. As a business owner, particularly in an industry such as landscaping that often needs a fast response, it’s easy to feel the pressure to drop everything and address the squeaky wheel right in front of you. Learn the difference between urgent and important, and figure out how to apply the distinction to situations facing you. Only then will you be able to correctly respond, and avoid squandering precious time.
  2. Get up to speed quickly. Set aside a 30-minute time period at the beginning of your first day back to meet with the person who runs the ship in your absence. They should give you a rundown of anything of note that happened while you were out, including any complaints from clients, potential new customers and employee situations. Use a timer so you don’t get off track, and don’t let other tasks interrupt you during the debriefing session.
  3. Relax and take one thing at a time. Even if you like a flexible schedule, having an outline for how you plan to spend your first day back can ease your mind. You’ll feel less like you’re running around putting out fires if you can make a routine and stick to it.
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