7 tips for surviving your return from vacation.

For most of the country, it was a cold winter. If you’re in the heating business or you’re a plumber. you should have been pretty busy. I bet you worked hard. You know you deserve some time off very soon. Why don’t you start planning your vacation right now?

Many of you either giggled at the thought of a vacation or you have stopped reading at this point. That’s because you haven’t been on a vacation in years or your idea of a vacation has become a combination of work and maybe some personal time.

No, I mean a real vacation where there’s no work involved.

Too radical? OK, you can go on vacation and attend a workshop, trade show or training and still call it a vacation. The people who plan these events put them in some really nice locations.   

You probably have even fooled yourself into thinking that you’d squeeze in some leisure time. The bad news is they booked you into workshops, training and social events that will keep you busy from early in the morning to late in the evening. That’s especially true if you make the trip to the bar for a late-night drink with a friend from the industry. These late-night teaching sessions at the bar are where I did some of my best learning. I’m not kidding. The problem came when the alarm went off at 6 a.m. and the sessions started once again.

Did you ever dare show up a day early or stay a day longer? I never did.

That’s because I already had to kill myself to clear up the backlog of work so I could go on vacation. There were calls I had to field about work while I was away. I was worried about what was going on while I was gone so I was always checking in. Finally, there was the pile of stuff waiting for me to do when I got back.

Sound familiar?

It got to the point I started to dread going on vacation vs. relishing the chance to unplug and recharge. The occasional disaster and the routine foul-ups drained any joyful feeling I had from having gone on vacation. That is until I learned how to fix my company and fix my thinking. I was the problem and I finally decided it was going to change.

Getting out of Dodge

Here’s how my brothers and I learned to not only take charge of our company but get our lives back - one vacation day at a time.

  • We created a detailed organizational chart  that made it clear who reported to whom. It laid out all the boxes it took to run our company.

  • We then took the organizational chart and created a depth chart, like what a football team has for its first string, second string and more. If the center gets hurt, the next guy on the depth chart at that position replaces him. For us, it shows where we are weak and strong at any one position.

  • We created bulleted job descriptions that explain what went on in each box in the organizational chart. Anyone filling that box knows what is expected of him or her in a shorthand way.

  • Later on, we realized the big short-comings of bulleted job descriptions, so we ramped it up with a detailed operations manual for each box on the organizational chart. This had much greater detail about how we do our work and how our employees would be judged as to doing well or doing poorly based on objectivity.

  • With the detailed operations manuals in place, we set up dedicated nonstop cross-training for each position based on the needs we discovered from the depth chart.

  • We created reoccurring appointments on the master Outlook calendar to remind us to get vacation schedules from all staff early and block time for them to take only in the off-season and in rotation.

  • I learned to cheat about when I was coming back to work by one day. Experience taught me that when I told my office staff I'd be back on a certain day, they would promise everyone that I'd call them my first day back.  It would have been nearly impossible. When I came back a “day early” based on my little white lie, I was able to get back to people over a two-day period. No one was upset I called a day early. In fact, they were flattered.

  • Try to arrange your vacations so you get back midweek. That allows you a couple of days at work during the week to catch up and the whole weekend to get ahead of things. This beats the heck out of taking a red-eye home Sunday night and plowing into work Monday morning tired and facing a big mountain to climb all week from a depleted state vs. a refreshed and relaxed state of mind.

    Do some or all of it and learn to love your time away. You deserve it!

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