Five Things to Do Before Heading on Vacation

By Chandler Milne, December 09, 2015
Five Things to Do Before Heading on Vacation

Got big plans for the holiday season this year? Before you log off for your holiday vacation, here are some tips to minimize the negative impact of your absence and keep you connected.

Calendar Tips

1. Keep your calendar up to date

Don’t disappoint and frustrate your colleagues by having a calendar that isn’t accurate. The last thing anyone needs is to schedule you for a meeting, thinking that you’re available, only to have you not show up because you are not in the office like your calendar said you were. Before leaving make sure that your calendar clearly communicates your availability.

Here’s a QuickHelp video on how to add and edit appointments on your Outlook calendar:

2. Send a calendar appointment to immediate team members

Of your entire organization, your absence matters the most to your immediate team. Don’t blindside them with your absence and trust me, a reminder at the water cooler has proven to not be enough. The best way to tell (and remind) your team that you’ll be out is to get it on their calendars.

Here’s a QuickHelp video on how this is done:

A few reminders and tips:

  • Don’t set a reminder for the appointment Don’t mark it as anything other than free (they aren't going to be there with you, so their calendar shouldn’t reflect them as out of the office)
  • Only send it to those that NEED to know. The intern in a totally different department doesn’t need to know that you’ll be strolling the Great Wall of China in three weeks.
  • Add your name or other identifying information to the subject line of the invite so that when your team is looking at their calendars they can quickly identify who is out of town.
  • Don’t forget to later jump in and change the status to “Out of Office” for yourself. Remember to just save the appointment and to not update the appointment.

Email Tips

3. Set up automatic replies (aka Out of Office messages)

Business 101: If you leave the office you set up automatic replies to let people know that you are not actively at the helm of your email. This standard practice can be easy to forget so here’s your reminder – Do it! Here’s a couple of videos on how to set up your
Automatic replies:

4. Make your automatic replies helpful and descriptive

I’m going to take a wild guess here and say that you’re probably not a top secret government agent who’s “vacation” is actually a mission to ward off nuclear disaster. Odds are you’re headed to your grandma’s cabin in the Appalachians or something else that requires a whole lot less secrecy. This being the case, what’s with the brevity and secrecy of so many out of office messages?!

“Out of the office for the next two weeks with limited access to email (IE, you’ll only get a response from me if I think you’re important). Please expect a delayed response (If I respond at all).”

Oh, thank you for telling me…nothing. Here’s some tips for actually being helpful in your automatic replies:

  • Let folks know the purpose of your absence. You don’t have to be very detailed if you don’t want to be, but it’s helpful to let people know if you’re on vacation or if you’re at a conference.
  • Provide a specific time period of your absence. “See you soon” should not be the only indication of when you’ll be back. Try something like “On vacation from Tuesday December 11th till Sunday December 16th. Back in the Office on Monday December 17th.”
  • Let people know how or if they can reach you. Provide details on email availability, phone numbers, etc.
  • Provide alternate contact information. If you’re roasting chestnuts and someone has an emergency, who else can they reach out to?

See this sister blog post for a couple of automatic reply templates that you can use.
Three Tips on Out of Office Etiquette

5. Schedule email sends - work while you’re not working

Do you have a proposal or other email-based piece of information that needs to get out on a certain date? Instead of trusting your memory to remind you to send that information, create the email and schedule it to send on the right date.

Here’s a video that discusses various email options and briefly touches on delaying delivery:

Bonus Tip: Time flies and holidays can sneak up on you if you aren’t prepared. Make sure that you never miss a holiday by getting them all added to your calendar. Best part of this tip? You can easily add the holidays of many different countries all with a few clicks.

Categories: Microsoft Software
Chandler Milne

A jack-of-all-trades kind of guy, Chandler has varied interests and skill sets including marketing, athletics, technology, woodworking, and learning. If Chandler's not thinking about BrainStorm or a new way to improve his house (and drive his wife crazy), he's probably not thinking at all.

Follow him on Twitter: @chandlermilne

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