5 things to do before you go on holiday

Posted by in Elizabeth Harrin: A Girl's Guide to Project Management Blog

Picture of deck chairIt’s summertime, and that means (hopefully) you have some annual leave coming up. But how should you prepare to leave your projects while you are away? Here are 5 things to do before you go on holiday.

1.  Update your schedule

Make sure that your plan and schedule is up to date before you go away. Make a point of looking over all the upcoming milestones and the tasks due for completion while you are going to be out of the office. Check that everyone who has milestones due understands when their tasks are due and the implications of not hitting those dates. Ensure that people with downstream tasks – those tasks that come after the milestone – are ready to pick up their parts of the project when the milestones are completed.

Why? Ensuring that your schedule and plan is up to date, and that people know about their project responsibilities, will make sure things happen while you are away.   Or at least, it will give you a fighting chance of coming back and not finding that nothing has happened while you are away.

2.  Tell your team and project sponsor

Make sure that your team and project sponsor know that you are going away. The earlier you tell them, the easier it will be for them to make their plans. Ideally, you don’t want your key project team members to be away at the same time as you.

Why? This is all part of being helpful. Your team and the project sponsor need to know where you are. This will hopefully also stop those phone calls and emails while you are on holiday!

3.  Check your diary

Are you away over the month end period?  Check your diary for any upcoming responsibilities. If you plan to be on holiday over the end of a reporting period, consider doing your reports early. If you can’t do your reports early – for example, if you are away for 3 weeks and too much will happen during your absence – then find someone to delegate the reporting to. Make sure they have a copy of last month’s report, and give them some guidance as to what they should include, like key milestones.

Why? You can’t let your own responsibilities slip just because you are away from the office.

4.  Do a handover

Pick someone to handover to. This could be someone on the project team or a fellow project manager who can caretake your project while you are away. Brief them on what has been happening with your project and any issues that might come up while you are on leave. Make sure that they know who the project sponsor is and what to do if a major crisis unfolds and you are still absent.

Why? While it would be lovely to think that nothing will go wrong, and that the project can cope without you for a couple of weeks, there is always a chance that something will happen. Briefing someone before you leave so that they are equipped to deal with any issues means the project can continue forward without you at the helm.

5.  Set up you out of office messages

The evening before you go on holiday, set up your out of office messages. This means configuring your email client so that people who email you get an automatic response saying that you are out of the office. This message should say what dates you are out of the office and who they should contact in your absence for urgent questions.

Change your voicemail as well, so that callers hear a recorded message saying when you will be back in the office. Put a note in your diary for the first day you et back from leave to remind you to change your voicemail again and to turn off your email autoresponder.

Why? It might not be possible to tell everyone that you are away before you go. Setting up an out of office message means that people who get in contact with you know that they can’t expect an instant reply. This helps manage stakeholder expectations.

What other tips do you have to help you leave the office feeling as if everything is under control before you go on annual leave?