The Difficulties of Going on Vacation

by Krishna on October 28, 2007

So, I am finally taking a few weeks off, after months of uninterrupted work. This is a vacation with a difference. I am going to stay at home, do whatever I want, and try not to put on too many pounds in the process. To replace hectic work with a hectic travel schedule does not particularly appeal to me at this time.

The biggest issue when taking leave is to decide what to do with your responsibilities. There is never a good time for taking vacation, because there never seems to be a shortage of things to do. So you have to pick some time and just do it. Sometimes the vacation may be determined by events in your life, but generally, that is not the case.

Here are some of the items you have to think about:

  1. What will be the state of your projects when you get back?
  2. Who will your customers interact with while you are gone?
  3. What if the people you are managing have questions regarding the work they have to do?
  4. What if there is an unexpected and urgent situation?

Here are some ideas:

  1. Obviously, you have to inform everyone that you are going to be on leave with plenty of notice. This gives them time to get what they want from you before you go away. Most of them will try their best to manage by themselves and not try to contact you. The problem is that sometimes, you forget to inform someone who is still under the impression that you are available. So make a list!
  2. The good thing in today’s electronic age is that you can still keep track of what is going on by continuing to check your email. If you have done the previous step, chances are that most of your emails will be informational only and will rarely require any replies. You can send a reply for anything that does not look right. The problem with checking email on vacation is that you may feel a compulsion to do it often, and that pretty much destroys the vacation mood.
  3. Provide necessary plans to your team members for the days you will be away. You can also provide them direction on what to do if they get stuck in an issue. This will help prevent things from coming to a halt while they are waiting for your reply. Having to provide clarifications while on vacation can be very frustrating and time-consuming.
  4. Ask customers to keep their cool for a few weeks. Sometimes, you may be able to provide an alternative contact for them while you are away. It depends on how critical the customer’s situation is and how important they are to you. If a particular customer is very important, you may need to provide them your contact information.

If you are an individual contributor in a single project, many of these issues may not apply to you. You can plan your vacation in advance and, usually, things go smoothly. As your responsibilities (including both technical and managerial duties) increase and the number of projects you are involved in increase, you will find it increasingly difficult to disentangle yourself from them. Longer, uninterrupted vacations are not just a luxury; they are a dream.

This is yet another reason for continuously delegating work to your team. The more tasks you keep to yourself, the fewer tasks you will be able to offload when you need the flexibility to do so. Many managers fear that delegating means that they will have nothing to do and soon be out of a job. But when they are absent, their projects have a greater chance of ending up as wrecks. That situation does not hold well for job security, either, unless of course, nobody else can clean up the mess. 🙂

I find it pretty interesting to think about what a vacation means. In one way, you could liken it to carrying a backpack. When leaving on vacation, you remove the things in your backpack. When you come back to work, you put the items back in again. In other respects, it is like juggling. When leaving on vacation, you just throw the balls high so that they stay in the air long enough for you to catch them when you come back. I guess it is a bit of both!

{ 3 comments }

Kalpesh October 28, 2007 at 7:52 pm

Guess what? I was expecting a post from you & here it comes. 🙂

To be philosophical (in Indian style), the questions that you posed will take care of themselves (maybe not in the way you want it to be), without your presence.

Its just that I think, what would happen to x/y/z & the world, if I am not there (even for sometime)?

Does the world stop? No, it will crawl, struggle & move on slowly.

So, enjoy your vacation. It is always that the mind swings on both sides.

e.g.
I want to take vacation, but I think what would happen to work & I think of taking break, when I am working 🙂

In this case, I am not enjoying any of the process (thinking about other when in one)

Just my 2 paise 😉

Krish October 28, 2007 at 9:48 pm

I guess in a sense, you are right that things will happen even if we are not there.

At the same time, we do have a sense of responsibility towards what we are leaving behind. Hence the thought involved.

It is similar to caring for one’s family. Obviously, people will survive even if we don’t exist, but that does not stop us worrying about them and taking life insurance policies.

Kalpesh October 29, 2007 at 10:30 am

Krish,

After I wrote comment, I thought about insurance policies that we humans subscribe to – in order to mitigate risks to ourselves & our loves ones.

In that sense, we are most worried animal on the planet. Makes me think, animals are better in most aspect than us (except that they do not analyze lot of things)

Thinking deeper, they live/eat/reproduce/die in accordance with nature & we don’t.

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