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Thursday, July 12, 2012

Enjoy a Stress-Free Vacation:  Tips for Preparing to Leave the Office

Laura and Rob in Paris

Does the thought of what you need to wrap up at work before you can leave on vacation make you not want to take one?  I certainly hope not.  Everyone deserves a stress-free vacation without thoughts of:

1. What didn't get done before you left or 
2. What you get to look forward to upon your return

I realize this is easier said than done; so I decided I would focus this article on things you can do to help eliminate some of the stress you may be feeling.  In April/May of this year I took nearly a month off work to enjoy a honeymoon in Europe. I even managed to shut the cell phone off the entire time I was gone.  I know what you're probably thinking....how could I do that?  In fact, many people that know me asked how I was going to manage to stay unplugged while I was gone and how I was going to prepare for my time away.  I guess they knew how hard it would be for me to do this.  I will share some of the things I did to prepare.

Before I do that, I wanted to share with you another article I wrote called "8 Things You Must Do to Stay Organized During Your Summer Travels."  This was published in our July Residential newsletter.  If you're not a subscriber to that newsletter; you can click here to subscribe.  This article is not a repeat of what I previously wrote so you may want to read both.

1.  Create a "Travel" checklist.  This list can be used whether you are taking a vacation or leaving the office for business related travel.  I use a Word document for my check list.  It contains a list of those items I may or may not need when traveling on business (not necessarily on vacation).  My list is very specific to the items I take with me; but if you'd like a copy of it - send me an e-mail; I'm happy to share it with you.  My e-mail address is:  

2. Create a "Must Do" list.  This list should contain everything you must do before you can leave the office.  There will be some standard things you always have on this list as seen below.  Shortly before your trip/vacation you can print it out and then add any additional items that are relevant to the upcoming travel.  Some of the items on my list are:

  • Create and turn on my Out of Office E-mail Message (See steps in Microsoft Outlook Productivity Tip section)
  • Change my voice mail greeting on my office phone and my cell phone
  • Pay bills
  • Wrap up existing client work and notify current clients I will be away
  • Send Christina a "While I'm Away E-mail"
  • Send E-mail to all employees about my absence

3.  Declare a "Meeting Free" day.  If possible, try not to plan meetings the last day in the office.  This gives you time for those last minute requests everyone will make when they suddenly realize you'll be out of the office for a week or more.  Block this day on your calendar at the same time you add your vacation or business travel to the calendar.

4.  Delegate.  Delegate any tasks well in advance so there is time to answer questions "before" you leave town.  Hopefully these questions will not arise the day before you leave; however if you have a "meeting free" day, hopefully you will have time for them.

4.  Establish a "Travel Area."  This is a place where you can place things that you will take with you during business travel or take home with you before you leave on vacation.  As you think about items you want/need to take with you, you can place them here.

5.  Establish a "Travel Accessories Drawer or Container."  This is a place where you can stash all things travel related so that when you get ready to leave the office you just have one place to look.  In my office, this is where I store things like:  the water-resistant case for my iPod, my Bose head-phones, travel chargers, etc...These live in a drawer in my office and prior to packing my bag, I move them to my "travel area."

6.  Review Your Travel Plans.  Review these plans a few days in advance to ensure you have what you need for your hotel, rental car, flights and more.  Always a good idea to double-check where you are sitting on the plane as the airlines may have changes planes since you booked your flight.

7. Use the "Off" button.  If you're taking a vacation; try using the off button on your electronics.  I am always much more relaxed when I don't look at e-mail.  In fact, on this vacation in particular - I was so relaxed that when my husband brought up a work issue on our second to last day away, I told him I would discuss it upon my return!  I just wanted to enjoy my last few hours of a stress-free vacation.

Wishing you a similar experience on your upcoming vacation.


Laura Leist, CPO

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Microsoft Outlook 2010 Productivity Tip - Configure Automatic Replies

imageDo your colleagues and customers a favor and configure your Automatic Reply before you leave the office so they know not to expect an immediate answer from you.  (Note:  in previous versions of Outlook this was called "Out of Office" reminder).

1.  From the File Tab, Select Info.

2.  Click the Automatic Replies button.

3.  Select the Send Automatic Replies radio button.

4.  Set the Start and End time for your automatic replies.

5.  Decide if you want Automatic Replies for those Inside or Outside your organization or both and craft your message.

6.  Click OK.

In your message be sure to include specifics such as:

1.  When you will return to the office and will respond to email.

2.  Whether or not you are reachable while you are out of the office.  For example; when I travel on business I let people know that I'm traveling and have access to e-mail but my response time may be a bit slower than usual.

3.  Who to contact in your absence along with their e-mail address and/or phone number.

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Are You and Your Employees as Productive as They Need to Be?

For many companies, June is the end of the year and a time when employee reviews are completed.  If you have an employee that received less than stellar marks in the following areas; let's talk:

  • Time Management
  • Task Management and Prioritization
  • E-mail Management and how to use Microsoft Outlook to be as efficient as possible
  • Organizational Skills
The small amount of money you invest in a Productivity Assessment for your employees or yourself includes:
  • 2-3 hour in person or phone consultation
  • Written report that will list an Executive Summary, detailed recommendations for implementation, prioritized list of action items for the employee and specific areas that Eliminate Chaos can be a resource for hands-on work.

If you'd like to discuss how a Productivity Assessment can help increase productivity and profitability, give me a call at 425.670.2551 or 877.342.8592 - or email me @ .

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Copyright© 2011 Eliminate Chaos LLC

You may reprint this article in its entirety with the following credit:  © 2012 Eliminate Chaos.  Reprinted with permission from Laura Leist, CPO of Eliminate Chaos.

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