How to work productively while on vacation

You’re about to jet off on your first vacation for 2014 when your boss calls. There’s some work you absolutely have to get done and you’re going to have to do it — gasp — while you’re away. Here’s how to get your work done without ruining your holiday.

Hands on keyboard

1

Make sure your hotel has the proper facilities

You don’t want to show up armed with your laptop or tablet only to find that there’s nowhere to plug it in except the bathroom and that you have to retreat to the lobby every time you need internet access. Be sure to check whether the room is set up for business travellers. If not, you may find yourself balancing on the loo while checking your work emails. Also, be sure to check out the internet arrangements before you book, because even if your hotel does have internet access, you don’t want somewhere that charges you a fortune. Look for places with free WiFi.

2

Pick a time that you’ll be working and stick to it

If there’s an hour in the middle of the day when you wouldn’t have been doing much anyway (like when you’ve gone back to your hotel room after a swim and a big lunch), make that your time for productivity. Chances are your partner or family will be having a snooze anyway, so resist the temptation to plonk yourself in front of the TV and make sure you use this time wisely. After all, it’s better to miss out on “downtime” than actual holiday activities.

3

Don’t be tempted to work “on the go”

As much as you may enjoy the image of yourself lounging by the swimming pool putting together a presentation while sipping on a cocktail, the reality may leave something to be desired. Think a damp iPad, glaring sun and frequent interruptions by your family/friends/partner begging you to take a dip. The same applies if you’re trying to snatch a spare moment to work while you’re doing activities like touring. Not only will your quality of work be compromised, but you’ll likely feel more stressed than productive.

4

Set goals (and stick to them)

The prospect of getting work done on holiday can seem overwhelming, so the best way to make it all seem more manageable is to break everything down into smaller tasks. Figure out exactly what you want to achieve each day and then make sure you get those things done — no excuses. By splitting up your work into smaller daily to-do lists, you’ll know you’re accomplishing something and feel a smug sense of achievement as you tick off your final item on your way out to dinner.

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5

Manage expectations

Your boss will obviously know you’re on holiday, but be sure not to make yourself available 24/7 unless absolutely necessary. Not only will rushing to answer every email instantaneously ruin any chance of you getting into “holiday” mode, but it will also create the impression that you are, in fact, on call and available all the time. A better option is to check your email at set times during the day — you can even chat with your boss about this to see what times work best for both of you.

6

Be clear with your travel companions

If you’re going to be working on holiday, then it’s essential that you make this clear to whoever you’re travelling with. Let them know that from [insert time] till [insert time] each day you’ll be working and that you’ll be in your room for this period. If you’re sleeping in the same room, of course, make sure that these times work with your fellow traveller (they may want to nap without the “clickety-click” of your frenzied typing!). Talking through your work schedule with your companion will (hopefully) avoid you being distracted by them during designated work times, and will also prevent your work from interfering too much with any plans you’ve made together.

7

Don’t let your work ruin your holiday

It may be easier said than done, but try not to let work stress get in the way of enjoying your time away. Figure out what needs to be done and how you’re going to accomplish it (including how long this will take). Then carve out time to do these tasks so that your work doesn’t impinge on your adventures. And once you’re out of the work zone, try not to think about it. After all, you’re on holiday so it’s time to enjoy!

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