I used to hate the last work day before vacation so much that I’ve actually considered cancelling vacations just to avoid that day.  That last day of work can be pure torture – an exhausting frenzy of work I’ve put off too long, conversations other people absolutely must have with me before I go and a few totally unforeseen disasters just to make life interesting.  It can be the kind of day when I’m annoyed at everybody including myself.

I used to cope with that stress by carving out extra work time.  I would plan to stay really late at night and get everything done once everyone else left for the day.  When that wasn’t enough, I would start auctioning off vacation time.  Some of those last-minute conversations became phone calls I could make from the car.  Some of the projects I needed to work on became things I could take care of on the plane.  Last minute problems became reasons that I wouldn’t totally unplug during my vacation.

It was an awful way to vacation.

And then I started doing something that made all the difference in the world for me.  It’s so simple that I’m almost embarrassed to write about it.  But it’s been so helpful to me that I’m willing to take the risk.  As soon as I schedule a vacation, I block out four hours of time on the morning of my last day in the office – no meetings, phone calls or interruptions.  Pure space to tie up loose ends.

I’ve found that if I push that time to the afternoon, it gets swallowed up by the events of the day.  But if I give myself four hours first thing in the day, I’m able to make a huge amount of progress.  I get to wrap up projects, answer emails and get a few things in motion that I need to hear back on later in the day.  Once I have that time, I don’t mind scheduling a few meetings in the afternoon.  But the morning is sacred – it’s my time to fight for my vacation, fight for time with my family and fight for the ability to genuinely rest and recharge.

My guess is a number of us are headed out on vacation later this week for the 4th.  So, start planning now for how you can defend that last day of work and actually be able to unplug when you head out on vacation.

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Leadership
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