Are project managers allowed vacations?

I was in the process of finishing a difficult  project proposal when my brain and my body were having an argument. It was rather a monologue. On the brain’s side. It went like this:

– It’s vacation time, buddy, sais my brain to my body. Hello! Is any one home?!

The body, rather unimpressed, walked into the office building.

I shortened my vacation by a week. A wealth of studies tell me why it is not good. Neither for me, my family nor for my organisation.

The good news is I’ll still have a vacation, even if a week later.

So back to the question in the title. A Project manager on vacation? Unheard of! Tight deadlines, impatient clients, strict sponsor, plenty of adrenalin, which keeps you going, and plenty of other imposed or self-imposed excuses. 

The key is in the planning. As in projects. So for a start, let’s do ourselves a favour and be good project managers of our own vacations.  Vacation planning tends to bring happiness as shown by research in the journal “Applied Research in Quality of Life”. People actually derive most of the happiness from their vacations in the planning phase (

img_1751You can easily guess who plans and organises my family’s vacation. I love to search for new destinations, read hotels reviews, make ‘hotel tenders’, book, make a list of things to experience, argue with my family about what not to put in the luggage (gadgets, for once). It is fun and it pleases the annoyed fancy brain, so it can deal with deliverables, milestones and other projects demands.

In parallel, a pre-vacation work planning will bring peace of mind. The key is to assess and prevent any foreseeable issues, to the extent you can. Announce as soon as you know your away days to anyone you work with. Think about replacement.

Will any other project manager replace you while you are away? If yes, leave clear instructions on matters to follow-up and a list of “in case of…” in a hand-over note, which is also communicated to your supervisor. Will there be no stand-by officer? Make sure your out-of-office automatic reply is clear about it and gives directions to people who still need your input/feedback.

Decide if you will you be available by email/phone. A wealth of studies show that it’s best to fully disconnect. Dropping ‘accidentally’ your mobile device in the pool is one option. There are less financially costly ways. Good pre-vacation planning will facilitate the full disconnect. So far, my personal record of ‘no-emails-checked’ is 3 days. If you still need to check your email, make a deal with yourself to check it only at a certain period of the day for a certain amount of time (e.g. 1 hour after kids go to sleep). If you stick to it, reward yourself with a large ice-cream or beer. Or both.




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