5 Things to Do Before You Take Time Off Of Work

KBB_flipflops_on_the_sandWhenever I plan a trip for anyone (and considering I don’t travel all that often, you’d be surprised at how often I have done this for other people), I always joke about the extra work involved in taking time off. Vacations are supposed to be restorative, relaxing and fun but it’s easy to get caught up in stressing over the details of planning your holiday. Next thing you know, you’ve spent the first two days of your vacation trying to come down off of the adrenaline rush.

I’m not going to sugar-coat the truth for you and tell you there’s some magical formula that will leave you completely worry-free when planning your vacation. But if you are planning to take time off of work, here are a few ideas to get you from stressed out to stoked.

Do thy research. It’s a good idea to store all of the details concerning your flight, your accommodations, etc. all in one place for easy reference. In doing this, you may find you’ve missed a step (do you know how you’re getting to the hotel from the airport?) It’s also a good idea to check if your passport and any other travel documents are up-to-date, as well as your travel vaccines. If you’re traveling to some place exotic, make sure you read up on the weather, currency and other issues you might feel are of concern to your health and/or safety. A prepared, informed traveler is a safe, happy and healthy one.

Tie up loose ends. There’s nothing worse than trying to pick up a colleague’s project and realize that you have absolutely no idea what’s going on. Leaving someone or something dangling at work is impolite, unprofessional and not a great scene for anyone involved. You don’t want to leave someone with a mess of a project, and let’s face it- you don’t really want to deal with that mess when you come back to work, do you?

Make an action plan for your absence. If you’re taking work with you, make sure you have the appropriate means to get done what you need to get done. If someone else needs to get something done while you’re away and they need your input, let them know how best to get in touch with you, if at all. (Kind of like Number 2).

Plan your vacation before you leave. Too often we expect ourselves to come back from vacation and jump right into the thick of things, which sounds almost as stressful as not having a vacation at all. Do yourself a favor and don’t spend most of your vacation anticipating your return to work. Take an extra day off to unpack, schedule catch-up time, telecommute or do whatever it is you need to do to make sure the stress of transitioning back to the workplace doesn’t counteract the positive, relaxing effects of your vacation.

Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego? Unless you want to be associated with this elusive anti-hero, please inform the appropriate authorities of where you are going- your loved ones, your boss, etc. I once was hired for a job because one of the employees decided she was going to take off to Australia for a month and not tell anyone. It may seem like common sense, but this really, truly did happen and I want to make sure you don’t make the same mistake!

If you know ahead of time where you’re going, what you’ll need and what’s going to happen when you get back you can automatically forget everything else. You’ve done the work already. Now: sit back, relax, and have a margarita. Those are B’s orders.

KBwB-BFlower-50I bet you anything that you travel more than I do (it’s not that difficult) so if you’ve got more travel tips to share, I’d love to hear them! Comment below or drop me a line at keepingbusyb@gmail.com. I may choose to share them in another travel-related post.

Or you could just tell me stories about your travels, really. My goal is to live vicariously through other people’s vacations.

When You Just Need a Sounding Board

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Everyone needs at least one important person in their professional lives that has nothing to do with your boss, your co-workers, or your employees. Whether you’re the person who runs meetings or the person who cleans up after them, we all as professional people need a sounding board to get us through our professional crises and challenges.

Swapping work horror stories over margaritas with friends may be a fun way to unwind and let loose all of that nasty stuff that you’ve been holding in all week, like how tired you are of hearing your co-worker swoon over her new boyfriend, or how poorly-dressed the new supervisor was last Thursday.

Having someone to act as a sounding board for you is a more meaningful experience than that. It’s useful to be able to gossip (and depending on your relationship with your sounding board there may be some sniping involved). But more importantly, your sounding board is someone you should be able to go to in times of real difficulty; someone who knows you well enough to understand how you operate and which professional goals mean the most to you. They can help provide an objective perspective on your own unique challenges at work while keeping your personal and professional well-being in mind.

This person may be a trusted friend, a former colleague, or an acquaintance met through work connections. Maybe it’s a friend of yours that has similar career goals, or a relative who may have experience in your particular field. Whatever your relationship is to your sounding board, they ultimately should be someone you trust and ultimately someone whose opinion you respect. Ideally, your sounding board should be drawn from your pool of acquaintances outside of your own workplace (if you have one). Work relationships run the risk of going south quickly if sensitive or potentially harmful information is shared. Open communication between you and your sounding board is key; it’s important that you choose a sounding board with whom you can be candid, and who can return your candor in a constructive way.

A mentor may be someone with whom you share a working relationship, or hope to someday; a sounding board is someone with whom you can maintain a somewhat professional distance. You never want your own personal feelings or opinions to get in the way of a potential client or partnership. A sounding board is someone who will understand that you are not the sum of what you do to make money and that your career is not necessarily based on the current job you have.

I’m lucky enough to have a couple of different sounding boards in my life- people who I can rant to, people who can give me guidance when I’m feeling stuck, even people who are willing to look at my work with a fresh pair of eyes when I’m feeling like my brain is made of mush.

Choose your sounding boards carefully and you can find yourself in one of the best relationships you’ve experienced in your working career.  I know I have and as I continue to dream and grow (and mostly dream) my business, I hope to meet many more.

KBwB-BFlower-50Do you have a sounding board in your life? Give them a shout-out below, or if you’ve got a special story to share, email it to me at keepingbusyb@gmail.com and I may decide to include it in a future post (with you and your sounding board’s permission, of course).

I look at careers and working life a little differently than the rest- probably because I spend most of my life working and then reading books that are about working. To see where I get some of my inspiration, click here to read some of my business book reviews. If you’re looking for more ways to balance your professional life, I write a lot about doing business here.

 

How to Hold a Business Meeting and Actually Get Things Done

KBB_agenda_bird_notebookYes, you can!

No, I wouldn’t lie to you- and I hate meetings as much as the next person. It’s not just because I express myself in writing (hello, I’m a blogger). But I find the most meetings drag and eat up precious time for very little payoff.

Tell me you have been there before.

It honestly doesn’t have to be that way. If you’re holding a meeting that has an actual purpose you’re already on the right track to becoming more productive. Having a meeting for the sake of meeting that (heaven forbid) doesn’t have an agenda is like taking a huge chunk of your day and flushing it down the toilet, if you were able to do such a thing. If there’s no clear outcome or advantage to having a meeting, it’s probably safe to say that you don’t need to have one.

Sometimes meetings are a necessary evil in order to better communicate with staff or collaborate with colleagues on a joint project. In that case, try to minimize the number of attendees by limiting it only to the other people that need to be involved (in some cases, scheduling a check-in phone call or email with any other secondary employees, staff, or other collaborators can suffice). Designate a speaker and/or meeting leader to cut down on interruptions, and make sure there is a designated note-taker responsible for crystallizing any important ideas discussed who can follow-up with the appropriate people afterwards to make sure everyone is on the right track.

Surprisingly enough, the key to an efficient business meeting is to make sure that it’s just that- efficient. That means no false starts, no interruptions and a schedule that stays on track. It may be a good idea to schedule extra time at the beginning to allow for stragglers and getting everyone organized and seated. Once your meeting is ready to start, make sure everyone’s attention is focused on the common goal. No cell phones, headsets, tables, walk-ins, or drop-bys. For larger groups, or meetings that require a brainstorming or creative component, it may be helpful to employ a timer to make sure in-depth discussions don’t completely take over from getting work done.

What happens after a meeting is almost just as important as what happens during a meeting- if there’s no clear agenda or outcome, there’s no immediate way forward to getting things done. Make sure this doesn’t happen by taking the extra time at the conclusion of your meeting to delegate responsibilities, assign tasks and set clear expectations as what the next actions are for every single person in attendance. Ill-defined work is kind of like doing no work at all- most of everyone’s time will be spent trying to figure out what needs to be done, and who should take on each of these tasks. This can result in lower productivity, missed details, late deadlines, poor morale- and could lead to more serious consequences for you and your team, such as bad performance reviews or even financial losses.

Everyone’s on the same team here- most of us don’t like meetings. Each of us had our own working style and our own set of responsibilities that we have to prioritize throughout the day and meetings often upset this balance, or become unnecessary obstacles to getting actual work done. But when meetings are unavoidable there’s no reason not to make them as quick and painless as possible.

Yes, you can!

KBwB-BFlower-50Does anyone else out there start shuddering when a meeting is announced? Me too. Teach me the ways you survive them by emailing me keepingbusyb@gmail.com or commenting below.

For other unconventional business solutions, you may to check out these posts here. Looking to give your whole work life an efficiency makeover? Here is a good place to start.