Getting Organized Denise Landers

Summer is here, and along with the warmer weather, it means a lot of us will be headed away from the office to take a week or two of vacation with the family. Having a break with your loved ones, or at least away from the daily grind, can be a great thing, but only if you plan ahead. Otherwise, it can easily become a couple of weeks of working almost as much as you normally do, but without the tools and resources you’re used to having on hand.

For a lot of us, working while we’re on vacation — or at least peeking at our email once in a while — is a way of life. But to make the most of your time away, and to spend the least amount of time worrying about the office, here are five things you should do before heading out for a break:

1. Set up email and voice mail messages reminding customers and colleagues that you’re away. This is not just common courtesy; it is also a good productivity tip. Letting others know you are out is a good way to stop them from trying to track you down, not to mention leaving you dozens of messages you will have to sort through later.

2. Delegate any projects in progress. If you can pass on the project to someone else, do it. Not only will that ensure that your department’s goals keep moving forward in your absence, but it will be one less weight on your mind while you are on vacation. Even if you do not have a subordinate who can help, simply find another person in the office who roughly understands your job and have an agreement — they take care of your most critical work during vacation, and you do theirs in return.

3. Make an emergency copy of names, numbers, and files. Ideally, you do not want to be calling back into the office during your vacation. Ironically, however, taking along some pertinent files and phone numbers can stop you from doing that, since knowing that they are there may stop you from worrying so much.

4. Leave your contact information with one person you trust. In the event of a true emergency, your office should be able to contact you. Leave your vacation phone number and address with someone you trust and who knows not to send anything your way unless it is absolutely critical.

5. Organize your space so you will have a clean desk before you leave. This is a good productivity and time management tip for any day, but especially when you’re heading away on summer vacation. The last thing you want to come back to is a cluttered desk filled with old items, so make an effort to clean and organize it before you go. After all, there will be enough new material to review when you return. As an added bonus, this step will make it easier for another person to find important information while you’re gone, meaning they’ll have one less reason to call you when you should be relaxing.

Of course, this relates to actually taking a vacation. We all need that time off, yet so many Americans are suffering from vacation deprivation. They decline earned vacations days for a variety of reasons. Make sure you take those breaks to refresh yourself mentally and physically. It will actually help to improve your daily productivity when you are back in the office.

• Ahwatukee Foothills resident Denise Landers is the author of “Destination: Organization, A Week by Week Journey.” She helps businesses and individuals accomplish more with productive office systems. Reach her at (602) 412-3876 or

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