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How to Take Time Off and Not Dread Returning (#204)


The Confident Leader


Does the excitement of a vacation get overshadowed by the anxiety of returning to an onslaught of work that has piled up while you were gone? Break the cycle. There is a solution. 

“Fun is good”

―  Dr. Suess

This Week’s Edition

How you prepare to take time off directly influences your experience upon returning. 

Clarify Your Thinking

“Robin, my experience upon returning to work from vacation makes it almost not worth it to go.”

I hear this comment often during the summer when many leaders take vacation. When they return, they’re slammed by an avalanche of work so great that they question whether they should have taken the time off at all.

The pain associated with the return to work can be so significant it causes leaders to take measures that may not be in their best interest:

  1. They shorten their time off or don’t take time off. (Only 48% of all employees use all of their vacation days)
  2. They stay constantly connected to the office while on vacation (54% of individuals continue to work on vacation).
  3. They do substantive work while on vacation. 

Additionally, research shows that employees who work during vacations and holidays suffer a significant decrease in intrinsic motivation, leading to a increased likelihood of quitting.

Old Thinking: I can’t take time off. It’s too hard when I return. I’ll take a vacation later when things settle down.

New Thinking: Maybe I’m taking the wrong approach to preparing for my time off. Perhaps if I think about it differently and make a new plan, I can break the cycle. 

Thoughts Lead to Actions

While technology enables leaders to be remote and continue to move the business forward, it can also be a temptation to keep working while on vacation. 

Leaders need time away from work. It’s important for several reasons:

  1. Increased energy (66%), increased productivity (58%) and increased work quality (55%) after vacation
  2. By taking time off, the leader supports their health as well as the health of the organization
  3. Employees are more likely to take time off if it demonstrated by their leader

Here are some ways to prepare for your time off that will allow you to take time off without the anxiety of the work that awaits you upon your return:

  1. Delegate key day-to-day responsibilities to others who can do the work while you are gone (vs. it piling up in your absence).
  2. Let your customers/clients know you will be gone and who they can contact in your absence in case of an urgent issue.
  3. Appoint someone to monitor your email. Give them instruction on how to respond to the different types of emails you receive daily.
  4. Block the first day you are back in the office. No calls, meetings or other responsibilities. Work through any backlog of work that piled up.

The effort you spend on the front end will pay dividends both during your vacation and upon your return. Be smart in your preparation and planning so you can relax, recuperate, recreate, and reflect while away. 

Boost Your Performance

Watch this week’s video for bonus ideas on how to prepare for your time off and why sometimes it’s okay to work on “vacation.”

What’s Your Opinion?

How do you prepare for taking time off? Share it with me at

If you are going to be a leader, you might as well be a good one. Don’t let doubt count you out. Have a confident week!

Robin Pou, Chief Advisor and Strategist

We live to make bad leadership extinct so forward this newsletter to others who strive to be confident leaders. 


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What is “The Confident Leader”?

During the Covid-19 Pandemic, I began a video series called “Panic or Plan?” It was designed to equip leaders to navigate the doubt they experienced and to rise in the confidence they needed to lead during turbulent times. It took off. I then started this newsletter to equip leaders in the same fashion each week for the doubt that crashes across the bow of their leaderSHIP.