By: jdevore on April 10th, 2013

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7 Steps to Taking a Real Vacation

Succession Planning | Turnkey Business

383843_4489788526977_1404251285_nSpring is in the air! The weather is warm, the flowers are in bloom, and my allergies are driving me nuts! 

Despite my allergies, I love this time of year because it's full of hours by the pool, food off the grill, and one or two vacations.

Although... you know what I've been noticing the last few years? More often than not, I end up having to do work during my time away from work!

And that's no good. A vacation is no vacation if I'm accompanied by office tasks and responsibilities everywhere I go!

So even though the trend seems to be leaning more and more to making vacations workactions, I'm not accepting that fate. And frankly, neither should you! To help you take a real vacation this Spring or Summer, I've outlined 7 steps that will prepare you to make it happen.

Vacations are good for us!

First off, I just want to emphasize that vacations are good for us! Vacations are times to rejuvenate the mind, refocus your life, spend time with loved ones, and gather zeal and momentum for when you resume your normal duties. If you take your work everywhere you go, you're going to burn out.

I think that being able to set aside time for vacation is one of the indicators of success in our daily endeavors - it means that you've gotten things so under control that you can take a few days off without everything falling apart.

The tricky bit about taking a vacation is figuring out who will handle your responsibilities while you're away - which really leads to the question, "How do you replace yourself?"

How do you replace yourself for vacation?

Being able to successfully get away for vacation really depends on your ability to make yourself replaceable - and that takes planning. I've been in past situations where whoever was leaving on vacation waited until the day before they left to prep me on everything I needed to do while they were away.

Bad idea! If you want me to handle a customer interaction successfully while you're away, coach me on it a dozen times before you go. If you want me to run a client meeting during your absence, don't let me run it for the first time during your absence. And if you have a list of things you need me to do, don't make me figure out how to do it while you're out of pocket for a week.

If you don't plan and prep, you're either going to get questions while you're away, or come back to a mess that you've got to clean up (maybe you'll be pleasantly surprised! But, why leave that to chance?).

So, here's the plan I've concocted to prep you for vacation - hopefully you'll be replaceable in time for your cruise!

Step 1: List all the things that need to be done

I love lists! You can cross things off them, tear them up, and hand them out to people - here, you're going to do the latter.

So list what you do on a daily basis, then figure out what will need to be done while you're away, and what items can wait until you return.

Step 2: Automate what you can

If you can skip the whole delegation thing altogether by making an item on your list automatically happen, do it.

If a newsletter needs to be sent out while you're away, you can write it up before you go and schedule it to be sent while you're sleeping in. Or maybe you can trigger certain events to occur using IFTTT. Or maybe you could use TextExpander to save snippets somebody else could use to respond to emails on your behalf (if somebody asks about X, use snippet Y) - that last one is a lesser form of automation, but it still works.

Step 3: Establish a checklist for remaining items

You now have a list of things that need to be done by somebody else while you're away - for everything on that list, you need to make a checklist for how to accomplish them.

List out everything that needs to be done in order for the task to be accomplished successfully. Your checklists will act somewhat as a control to help the doer know whether he/she covered all the bases - if everything on the checklist is done, then the job will be done. So make sure you don't leave anything out.

This is also a good time to reevaluate what can be automated and what requires manual inputs - certain checklist items might not even need anybody to manually do them!

Step 4: Write down when to do those activities

Make it clear when the jobs/checklist items need to be done. If it's a scheduled chore, have whoever is doing it put it on their calendar with an alert going off once or twice. If it's more of an ad hoc action, make it clear what kind of scenario would trigger a particular activity - you could even indicate the typical activities that come into play each day, and what to do in response (e.g. customers questions, billing invoices etc.).

Step 5: Write instructions for checklist items

Do not make the mistake of handing over a checklist without also providing instructions that show how to do the checklist items. What's familiar to you is not necessarily familiar to others.

And if you want to reduce the chances of miscommunication, use pictures to show somebody where to go, what to click, and where to type. For ideas on how to create a checklist and write how-to articles, take a look at our webinar,"Documentation to Scale Your Business."

Step 6: Get somebody to do your work

Now that you have written everything down and have instructions on how to do it all, you just need somebody to do it!

Make sure that whoever is in charge of executing the tasks is well aware of what it takes. Coach them through all your responsibilities, show them where they can get answers to questions that may arise, and let them do each item a few times when you're around to clear up any ambiguity. This will help prepare them for those days that you will be off, and empower them to act independently and figure something out on their own if necessary.

Let experience breed confidence!

Step 7: Have someone else be in charge

If you can, put somebody in charge of following up with whoever you assigned your responsibilities. Give them the list of items that need doing, along with the checklists, the how-tos, and the due dates. They can check in and perhaps help answer any questions that come up during your absence.

You can also come up with a plan of what to do when there are no answers. Determine what would need to happen in order for you to be bothered. If an "emergency" arises, they should have some guidelines as to what can wait two days until you come back, and what needs your urgent attention.

If you can't put somebody else in charge of following up, and you absolutely do not want the work to go unchecked, then have whoever is doing your jobs while you're away send you a daily email with a description of what they were supposed to do, what they were actually able to do, and why there was a discrepancy (if there was one). There's a great template for this available with our webinar "How to Grow Your Business by Building a Remote Team."

That will at least minimize the work you have to do to just 5 minutes of reading an email.

Plan right and Relax

Hopefully these 7 steps will help you get away from work and enjoy some time to yourself, with family, or with friends. What you'll find is that with some preparation, you are in fact replaceable for at least a week.

You may also realize that others are very capable of handling things, and there are very few situations that require your immediate attention. And that's because good delegation allows others to grow, and allows you the option to move on to other things... like a game of golf.

Leave a comment and tell me what you do to prepare for an uninterrupted vacation.

About jdevore

Jonathan (Jay) DeVore is the Director of Marketing at Blue Mango Learning Systems, developers of ScreenSteps. He graduated from Brigham Young University with a BS in Accounting, and is a licensed CPA in the state of Virginia. Right after graduation, he worked for his dad's private medical practice in Pasadena, CA auditing the efficiency of billing and collections. After 9 months of living in the golden state, he moved his family to Virginia to begin working at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). As an accountant at PwC, he actually did very little number crunching (which surprised him), and instead audited government information systems for compliance with government requirements (e.g. NIST 800-53). During his time with the Big 4 Accounting Firm, he helped large organizations improve their documentation both from a compliance perspective and instructional perspective. His favorite aspect of work was training/teaching, so when Greg and Trevor approached him with an opportunity to create educational content for ScreenSteps, he jumped at the chance. Jonathan lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and children, and enjoys the beautiful weather the D.C. area offers 9 months out of the year.