Are you constantly getting calls and other interruptions from the office when you’re on vacation?

If so, you’re not taking a real vacation. And that’s something we all need in order to recharge, re-energize and refresh.

I struggled with this myself throughout my 24-year career, and at times even wore these interruptions as a mis-placed “badge of importance”. Ridiculous, I know.

If you struggle with this too, here’s a great tip I learned from the Chief Operating Officer for one of the largest research operations in the US – let’s call her Dana.

Dana’s philosophy is that there is nothing your boss can do to guarantee or give you your vacation time – you have to take responsibility for it yourself.

And that means building your team, organizing your systems and establishing your “deal” with your stakeholders so that you can take that personal time off.

Building out your team and setting up systems and processes are bigger topics and also more specific to the sector you’re working in, so let’s focus here on the more universal aspect of negotiating your “deal” with stakeholders upfront.

Here’s what Dana has established as her “deal” with her boss:

  1. She tells her boss that: “When I’m in the office, I’m your best employee. When I’m out on vacation, you go to my team first. If you don’t, then you’re undermining them.”
  2. To reinforce this, she has a strict phone policy: “I don’t take my work phone on vacation. My team has my personal phone number if they truly need me, and I tell them not to call me unless it’s an absolute emergency that they cannot handle.
    • It’s in everyone’s interest that my team can run this operation without me for a week or two. This policy builds up their confidence and ensures that I’m not holding anything up for the organization.
    • Her boss objected to this “no phone” policy at first, but Dana got him to agree to experiment with it on her first vacation and the system worked so well that he is now fully supportive of it.
  3. As for why her boss should want her to take her vacation, Dana says that: “People make their best decisions when they take a break. In fact, I’ve made some of my best decisions the week after I get back from vacation.” Who can argue with that?

So challenge yourself to set up your team, your systems and your “deal” with stakeholders to be able to take that crucial time off so that you can bring your best self to work when you get back.

What actions do you need to take to make this work for you?