Career Workout: Get Ready to Ban the Holiday Blues

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Summer is upon us. Sea. Sand. Mojitos on the Beach. But it's not all sunshine. If, like Step Up, your bliss is interrupted by intrusive thoughts about the work piling up back home, holidays can end up more fraught than fun. So how do you make sure you don't undo all that good work on your return? Over the next few weeks of Summer, Step Up is coming to your rescue. We'll help you banish the stress of return, manage your inbox (whichever camp of the Great Holiday Phone Debate you fall into), reconnect with colleagues and keep that holiday feeling going well into the Autumn.

So what to do if the holiday stress has taken hold and you've barely left the runway?

Prepare. Identify the parts of your job you find most stressful. Common culprits include that inbox, feeling left out of the team or worry that delegation will turn to disaster while your back is turned.

Plan. For each of your stress points, create a management strategy filing tasks into three lists: now, during and after. Now: as far as possible, complete or delegate tasks before you head off. During: decide how much you're going to do while you're away, be disciplined and stick to it. After: this is the stuff that can wait for your return.

Manage. You've decided what to check while you're off and that includes email. If you're a checker, stick to a time limit and specific time of day and stick to it, religiously. If not, you need to avoid an exploding inbox when you return. Here you have options. Delegation is great (see below). As is deletion, something auto firm Daimler offers its vacationing staff. If neither of these are an option, then be strategic. Use automatic filters so less than urgent messages don't hit you in the face when you open your inbox. And be realistic on your return, ring fencing half an hour a day to catch up on the backlog until it's cleared.

Recruit. The old back-scratching adage works well when it comes to holiday cover. Find a colleague who can cover the most stress-inducing or time-sensitive parts of your role while your away. They can also loop you back into any important goings on in the interim. Then make sure you're prepared to return the favour when they're off. Everyone wins.

Next week: how to ensure a smooth and stress-free return.

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