On a tangent to leading a virtual team… going on holiday

This blog is mostly about the work I do, and things I find interesting. But, as a Learning Technologist in a leadership role, I think a lot a lot about work/life balance even if I don’t share much about my life away from work on this platform. The current series of posts written jointly with Martin Hawksey in which we take an open approach to leading a virtual team has prompted me to reflect on how important it is to be aware of a how less formal, home-based work environment can affect one’s well being. As I have holidays coming up, I wanted to share my approach to taking a break. In an environment where many talk about their work ethic, on being indispensable or never having weekends or evenings off, it’s important to also talk about taking time away from work, taking a break.

So, here is what works for me when I want to get away:

Lists: a list of things to do before I go away, a list of things to handover/cover, a list of urgent things for when I get back, a list of long term things for when I get back, a list of things to check… ticking things off my lists and having somewhere to note all the things I won’t get done, is essential.

Ruthless inbox clearing: delete, delegate, deal with… always nice to see how a firm deadline focuses the mind and suddenly everything that has been languishing in my inbox for a while is gone. I also make an effort to send much fewer messages in the week before I go away, to get fewer responses back.

Make sure everything is covered: as a Line Manager and in a role where things have to be covered whilst I am away, I am fortunate to have colleagues who will deputise or cover for me. I put my arrangements in place well in advance and remind everyone that I’ll be away, to help them plan ahead, too. It’s a good opportunity for me to model what a handover looks like and how to plan ahead around urgent deadlines.

Keep for everything that I’ve forgotten: I am a big fan of Google Keep and use it for managing my to do lists. In the first few days whilst I am on holiday I’ll remember lots of things that I have forgotten and so I make a special list to which I can add everything that comes to mind. If I write it down, I won’t worry about it and it’ll be waiting for me when I get back.

Really actually go on holiday: if I intend to have proper time off, I don’t monitor email at all. I set my out of office and that is it.

Interesting reading: one of my main priorities when I don’t have to work is to catch up on lots of reading. That may be work-related research at times, and having that to look forward to is a big motivation for me.

I look forward to having a break from my usual routine, time to go for a run when I’m usually at my desk, time to spend with family and friends, time to stay up late… time enough to feel more curious, keen and inspired again when I head back to work.