Working from home

How to take a holiday if you’re too busy at work

Hat and sunglasses - Too busy at work for holiday
Stefan Schweihofer from Pixabay

If you are completely overwhelmed at work but desperate to take a holiday, then you need to prepare in advance. You deserve a break, but when you’re too busy at work, you may wonder if it’s worth it, fearful of creating even more work for yourself afterwards.

There’s nothing worse than stressing about your inbox while you’re away or worse, checking emails and taking work calls at the beach! If you’re travelling with others, it’s unfair to them too. They want to enjoy your company and not be pulled into a stressy work vibe, when you should all be enjoying your well-earned holiday.

You’ve got to be able to take time off properly and destress, otherwise what’s the point? You shouldn’t feel guilty or worried about taking your annual leave. Holidays are a time to switch off.

If you feel way too busy at work, you can use the following techniques to ease your mind beforehand and while you’re away. Whether you work for yourself or a company/organisation, you should be able to apply much of the below to your scenario.

Plan ahead

It’s highly unlikely you will be taking holiday very last minute so plan accordingly. You wouldn’t book time off during your busiest times of the year but go further than that to keep anxiety down. Don’t book a holiday right after a deadline because you could experience delays, extensions or lots of feedback/queries right afterwards.

If you’ve been in your job or had your company a while, you’ll know when things are particularly quiet, or when others you work with also go offline, say around school holidays, Christmas or the summer perhaps.

Make the most of these times, when it’s likely you won’t be able to get hold of others or get things actioned fast anyway. You can schedule your leave well in advance once you know the cycle and peaks of your role or company.

Batch work in advance

Yes, this means working extra hard beforehand and getting more than normal done in advance to cover your time away. This may already be a habit for you if you work for yourself and use nifty automation strategies.

Batch working and scheduling things to go out while you’re away is amazing if you have the kind of job that allows for that. Some of you will already work this way out of habit and it’s so important if you want to plan for a break.

If batch working doesn’t quite suit your job, you can still think about what to do in advance. This may include: sending invoices out early, asking colleagues if they can send things earlier, prepping up tasks like analysis or report writing, so the bulk is done and you just need to add the finishing touches when you’re back and so on.

Think about what else you can get done ahead of time that really won’t wait.

Too busy at work to take a holiday?

Ask for support

In many busy workplaces (mine included), we have a terrible habit of working in silos so it doesn’t come naturally to ask others to cover us. We also know our colleagues are super busy too and don’t want to overburden them.

However, it’s worthwhile putting a polite request out (or just beg) and saying hey, can you cover me on these things while I’m away and I’ll do the same for you when you take time off? I had a good experience of this recently and felt so grateful.

Keep the tasks as light as possible and give them a good handover so they feel confident to cover you. Bring them back a little gift of appreciation or make them tea/coffee for a week beforehand and they will remember that next time!

If you work for yourself and don’t have colleagues, is there a friend or family member that could keep an eye on emails or requests in case something important pops up? Or could you hire a personal or virtual assistant temporarily to cover the essentials?

Communication is key

Let anyone that needs to know, that you will be taking time off, and tell them know in good time. Whether it be clients, suppliers, colleagues and so on, they will all appreciate you letting them know early on.

I’ve felt almost scared to tell people I work with that I’m taking time off (especially if it’s a long stint) but as long as I tell them in advance, I find they are fine with it. They are probably looking forward to their own breaks.

Make sure you have a clear notification on your email out of office of who to contact in an emergency. And if you have the kind of job where there isn’t really ever an emergency, just let them know you’ll get back to them as soon as you’re back.

If you do have an alternative contact for them, give it out but clarify the terms or specifics that they should contact that person (again, so your colleague doesn’t get overwhelmed with lots of things that could have waited).

Woman sitting in the sun - Too busy at work for a holiday
Chen Mizrach at Unsplash

Consider the benefits

If you’re already overdoing it at work, and close to burnout, then you’ll know how important it is to step away and take a break. This will contribute hugely to protecting your well-being and the benefits could be massive.

Imagine how happy you will be when you take a break and enjoy yourself, finally finding that precious me time to read a book, sleep more, eat well and relax. And also consider the advantages upon your return.

You will come back to work stronger, rested and more inspired. You’ll be in a much more positive frame of mind and those around you will also reap the benefits. Consider how well and happy your colleagues look after some time off. Don’t you deserve the same?

So, take your holiday, even if you feel too busy at work

Whether you’re taking an exciting holiday overseas or a staycation purely for the rest, this list should help you mitigate any likely issues if you feel too busy at work to take time off.

If you’re struggling, consider talking to a medical professional or counselling service if need be. Take a step and prioritise yourself. Read more about self-care when you work from home

Taking a break or a full holiday from work is essential for our mental health so don’t make excuses and book that time off. Check out the post for alternative holiday ideas and enjoy yourself! If you want to travel light then read how to pack everything into a carry-on.

You should be able to take a holiday and not be checking in on work all the time or on your phone. Even the most successful entrepreneurs know the value of switching off and disconnecting.

If your workplace isn’t supportive of you taking annual leave or expects you to still work when you’re supposed to be off, check what the laws are specific to your country or region. If you are in the UK you can check your rights on the UK Government website.

If you start telling yourself, nope, I can’t find time for a holiday this year as I’m far too busy at work remember, we spend most of our lives working, so you’ll have plenty of opportunities to get back to it! If you’re thinking about travelling alone but unsure, read more about the benefits.

Find more on balancing work and parenting on the homepage. Another helpful post is if you’ve got a new boss and trying to build good relations, is the questions to ask a new manager and start on the right foot.

Comment on how you manage to get away when you’re too busy at work and follow me on Instagram for reminders to take care of yourself at work.

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How to take a holiday when you're too busy at work


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