A project manager on vacation

I wrote this piece in August 2016. I fully subscribe to each word to this day. I have also accumulated in the meantime a number of additional useful tips.

***

– Will the sky fall if I take a two week leave, boss? I asked my former programme manager some years ago.

– Yes, he responded abruptly.

He still let me go. I suspect it was because I mentioned I am traveling to France, his home country.

And the sky did not fall. To the contrary, stars were brighter upon my return as I came back refreshed. My happy brain and the creativity inspired by new sites renewed my vows. My productivity increased. It lasted for a good half a year, a critical time for the change management we were implementing.

In 14 days we travelled 2000 km from Paris to San Remo and back, visiting 3 countries, stopping overnight in locations on our route, enjoying the hospitality of new hosts every evening. It was a travel in time, as our itinerary included the Pont du Gard, an ancient Roman aqueduct that crosses the Gardon River in southern France and Arena of Nîmes, a Roman amphitheatre, built around AD 70. Visiting ancients sites puts things into perspective. For example, is that internal chatter about the perfection of the new marketing strategy important in the big scheme of things of giving to the clients the good product they expect? These lasting monuments reiterate what we know and tend to forget: things that last are not build in one day and not by one person.

A change of scenery uncluttered my busy brain. Colours took over numbers. Scents and sounds put office chatter to sleep. Deadlines surrendered to sunrises and sunsets.

Research shows that a busy mind requires a busy vacation. Project managers do have a busy work life, no doubt about it. So, why not get passionate and be a good project manager of your vacation? Apply the best of your planning skills and bring it to a successful completion, with satisfactions to last. And make it on budget, if possible. If not, it’s no trouble. Your recharged batteries will soon repay it in full.

Here are a few tips I collected throughout years:

  • Plan well. Do not leave things to chance.
  • If you absolutely must check on the projects, schedule time to do so. Either early morning when your family is asleep or after they go to bed. It will prevent the feeling of guilt for having stolen from the time with your dear ones. It will also organise those back at work. They will know when to expect an answer from you, if you absolutely must.
  • Have a clear out-of-office message so that those who try to reach you by email know what to expect.
  • Do something new. Something that would take you out of your comfort zone and get you a positive adrenaline shot.

stock-photo-hawaiian-vacation-sunset-concept-two-beach-chairs-at-sunset-98725346I run into this article and gladly share it: 5 Rules for a Vacation that’s Truly Worth It by Claudio Fernández-Aráoz, Harvard Business Review June 05, 2015, https://hbr.org/2015/06/5-rules-for-a-vacation-thats-truly-worth-it

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