Taking vacation when you’re managing a project

As you are reading this, I am sitting on the balcony, enjoying the view of palm trees, listening to birds and feeling the warm breeze on my skin.

In front of me: the endless blue of the Pacific Ocean.

Plan for the next hour: rest, go on a walk, jump into the crushing waves

I’m on holiday with my family and we are enjoying our first visit to Australia. It’s an amazingly beautiful country and we love the people who are so friendly and welcoming.

Now, I don’t want to give you a holiday update.

I wanted to reflect a bit about going on holiday when you’re caught in a project and loaded with work up to your chin. Because you always need to take a break from work — even if it seems impossible.

I’ve been managing challenging projects for the past years, but still we always found time to escape for 2-3 weeks and explore other countries (I would often forget my work passwords, which was a good sign).

vacation pictures

How can you fit in a nice vacation? And how can you get away from work without feeling guilty and worrying about your projects falling off the track?

Here’s what helped me:

4-6 months before holidays: Schedule vacation

I always scheduled our longer holidays right after important milestones. This way I could finish up all work and leave with a sense of accomplishment.

It didn’t matter that my project lost a bit of momentum while I was away. We usually had 2-3 months between each milestone, so I knew I could get my project back on track once I returned from holidays.

1 month before holidays: Put a backup in place

I always tried to find someone who could act as my backup while I was away. This could be my manager, an assistant or someone else … even an intern would be ok!

The role of the backup is not to do your job, but to act as contact person during your absence.

Your backup can help with simple things: respond to questions like “where can I find the meeting minutes from our last status meeting?” or do admin work like resetting passwords or scheduling / hosting meetings on your behalf.

Your backup can also call you in case of bigger issues that require your attention.

1-2 weeks before holidays: Check in with my team

I always have a 1:1 meeting with every team member to give them a subtle wink about my holiday plans and to encourage hard work.

You can use my script:

“Hey [NAME], I want you to work as hard as possible for the next couple weeks. Sleep in the office if needed. Move mountains. Please, please, please do so, because at the same time I’ll be relaxing by the pool, sipping on my piña colada and giving a damn about work.”

Just kidding.

All you have to do is make sure that every team member knows what to do the next 2-3 weeks. Also confirm there are no issues preventing your people from doing their job.

During your vacation

Well, just relax, have a great time and don’t think of work.

That’s all for now.

Gotta go back to the beach 🙂

-Adrian

Adrian Neumeyer

Hi! I'm Adrian, founder of Tactical Project Manager. I created the site to help you bring your projects to success. In the past I've worked as an IT project manager for 10 years.

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