My wife is due with our third child on August 3rd, and as of this posting we’re in late July which means “any day now” territory. After 37 weeks, an unborn baby is “fully baked” (medical term), and our first two kids came early as well.
Once Beth goes into labor, I’m planning to go dark for two weeks. To do that successfully takes planning, as does doing the same for a great vacation or even a long weekend.
If you want to truly disappear, here are a few steps I recommend.
1. Clear your schedule
Cancel as much as you can, and move the rest. Don’t leave yourself with any scheduled reasons to re-engage. It’s a slippery slope.
2. Make it clear to colleagues and clients
Don’t tell people you’ll check in every once in awhile. Let people know you’ll really be gone. Make it clear who they can contact while you’re gone.
3. Create a really good and clear out-of-office auto-reply for your email
Again, be clear that you’re not going to respond anytime soon, and give contact information for others that can take care of them in the meantime. If you must, leave a cell phone number for emergencies but make it clear that something had better be on fire.
4. Have an escalation path (just in case)
If something truly does catch on fire (which can happen), make sure your staff (or at least an assistant or trusted number two) can still get ahold of you if necessary. Again, last resort, but important.
5. Keep capturing notes and ideas
Even though you’re intentionally adding distance between yourself and active work, you’ll still have ideas. Better to capture those on paper, in Evernote or somewhere else you can save them for processing and/or execution later.
6. Have a re-entry plan (and give yourself time and patience to adjust back)
Before you leave, set up your first day back. Leave plenty of time open to catch up on email, re-orient yourself to active work, and re-connect with your closest colleagues to get caught up on what’s most important. I recommend blocking an entire day to do this.
Relatively simple list, but rarely executed well. You may not need every step for a three-day weekend, but a couple can still give you the time away you need to come back refreshed and productive.