How To Structure The Week Before Vacation So The Friday Isn’t A Nightmare

Working late to get everything done is a terrible way to kick off a vacation. Here’s what you can do to prep early.

How To Structure The Week Before Vacation So The Friday Isn’t A Nightmare
[Photo: SeanZeroThree/iStock]

The struggle to leave for a weeklong vacation without feeling stressed is real. Just ask Tracey Gritz, productivity expert and owner of The Efficient Office. The week before vacation one of her clients worked late every night. Her work was so frantic on the days leading up to her Caribbean getaway that, as soon as the plane took off, her client broke out into hives.


While this may be an extreme case of pre-vacation stress, there are plenty of employees who admit to pulling an all-nighter the day before vacation or confessing that they work on the plane ride to their destination. Is that really how you want to start your vacation?

“You need to give yourself permission to leave for vacation in a drama-free manner,” Gritz says. The best way to do that is to prepare your office and coworkers for your vacation. Here, three efficiency experts offer a step-by-step plan on how to structure your work the week before vacation.

Related: This Is What Makes A Vacation Restorative 

Give Your Coworkers And Clients Advance Notice

One way to avoid last minute requests from colleagues, clients, and managers is to make sure everyone knows when you’ll be out of the office. The easiest way to do that is to include your vacation dates on all of your emails as part of your auto signature two to three weeks before your departure date, Gritz suggests.

Related: What Happens To Your Brain When You Work On Vacation

Streamline Your Day

Rather than work late every night the week before vacation, be more efficient with your time, says Jan Yager, author of Put More Time on Your Side. Make your biggest project your priority each morning when you first arrive at work and wait until later in the day to respond to email, Yager says. This is also a good week to pack your lunch and eat at your desk. Postpone any lunches and coffee dates with clients and colleagues until after you return from vacation, she says.


Related: This Is Who Takes The Least Vacation In the U.S. 

Do Only What’s Necessary

Remember you don’t need to complete every task before you leave. Focus on priority projects and instructions for delegating any unfinished work to colleagues, Yager says. Everything else can be completed when you return.

Find A Re-Entry Buddy

Ask a colleague to help you get up to speed quickly when you return by writing a “while you were out” memo that captures the activities and progress that occurred during your vacation, says Renée Cullinan, cofounder and CEO of Stop Meeting Like This. Ask them to also create a list of items that will need your immediate attention your first day back in the office and ask them to email you both documents the night before you return to work.

Plan For What You’ll Miss

Before you leave for your trip, look at next week’s calendar and determine if a coworker needs to sit in on any meetings for you or whether you need to provide input on a project, Cullinan says. Provide guidance to your colleagues now so they can keep a project going while you’re out of the office without having to call or email you while you’re away.

Block Out Time To Ease In And Out Of Vacation

On your last day in the office, block out the last two hours of your work day to wrap up any loose ends or deal with any unexpected emergencies. Similarly, block out the first two hours on the day you return to work to prioritize your work and take care of any urgent tasks, Gritz says.

Use Technology To Your Advantage

Manage your post-vacation email by setting up an out-of-office message and creating rules to presort your email while you’re gone. There are three types of out of office messages you can send, Cullinan says, ranging from letting coworkers know you don’t plan to check email while you’re out (and that you won’t read old emails when you return), to inviting coworkers to text you if there is an emergency, to agreeing to occasionally check email while you’re on vacation. Cullinan developed a vacation resource guide that includes sample scripts for each type of message.


Related: Why Taking A Vacation Can Make You Better At Your Job

Whether you use Gmail or Outlook, you can create rules that will filter email messages while you’re away. For instance, Cullinan says, you can set up rules that will automatically forward an email from a senior staff member or client to a colleague, and send routine emails like daily news roundups into a folder to be deleted when you return or to color code emails that were sent to only you, making it more efficient to sort through your inbox when you return to work.


About the author

Lisa Rabasca Roepe writes about women in the workplace, technology and beer. Her articles appear in The Christian Science Monitor,, Family Circle and October.