Starting tomorrow, I’m traveling to a family wedding and will be out of touch for five days. It’s only three business days, but I haven’t seen some of these family members in a long time so I want to be present and focus on them for this trip. That means leaving work completely behind.

And that is hard.

Whether you’re out for a couple weeks or even just a long weekend, preparing yourself and those you work with is critical not only to their productivity and success while you’re gone, but also your peace of mind to truly disconnect and enjoy your time off (plus be prepared and productive when you’re back).

1. Let people know early
Give your colleagues, clients and anyone else relevant plenty of heads-up that you’ll be out. Make sure there aren’t any unexpected milestones or events on the calendar you’ll need more time to prepare others to handle in your absence. More importantly, tell them you’ll be out and not working. If you’re not explicit about this, they may expect you to continue checking your email. And you’ll feel compelled to. If you really want the time off, be direct and prepared.

2. Brief those left behind
Are others on your team going to need to chip in on certain projects? Do you need someone else to get something written, or edited, or coordinate anything else? Be explicit about what’s happening so there aren’t any surprises. Your team will appreciate being prepared, even if it’s just a heads-up on stuff they don’t need to be actively involved in.

3. Establish escalation paths
When you’re in the office, the escalation path me go through you or BE you. But if you’re really on vacation, unless the building is on fire, that’s not going to be you. Help your team, colleagues and peers know exactly who to go to when they have questions, need something reviewed, or if the you-know-what hits the fan.

4. Set up a really good out-of-office message
Make it clear you’re on vacation. Be explicit about where to go if they need help right now. Consider changing your voicemail message to reflect this as well. Don’t be afraid to have a little fun with your out-of-office message too (send me an email at to see what mine looks like).

5. Prepare for your 1st day back
Sure, things may change between now and when you get back. But if they don’t change significantly, do you know how you’ll prioritize the day? What are your top five and “one of five” priorities for your first day back? Block time in the morning to get caught up, but focus on actual, productive work priorities as quickly as possible. Setting this up before you leave will help you not only relax while out, but come back refreshed, prepared and productive.