Preparing for a Long Time Away from the Office

a blue to do listYou guys have been a huge help while I refine my packing strategy for my long conference next week. But in addition to packing for 12 days, I also have to prepare to be out of the office for nine working days. And by out of the office I mean virtually unreachable, not just somewhat unavailable like normal. This has been making me pretty anxious over the last few days. There are a lot of projects that I’m in the middle of that I just won’t be able to work on for almost two weeks! So I’ve had to develop a strategy for making sure the office runs without me. With a few adjustments, it would also work well for a long vacation, or maybe even a long leave. Here are the steps I’ve been taking to stay sane:

  1. Communication. Everyone I work with on a daily basis, and many people I work with less frequently, knows that I will be out during this time. All of my customers know as well, and know who to contact while I’m out. I have been reminding people for probably two weeks now, and will send out a final round of emails before I leave. I don’t want anyone to be caught unaware!
  2. Checking-in. I have checked on the status of more action items in the last three days then in the past month altogether. This way I know everything that I need to have done before I leave is done, and things will continue on track while I’m out.
  3. Lists. Lists, lists, and more lists of current projects, action items, status updates, and general customer information fill my desk right now. I’ve been keeping a running list of everything that must get done before I go, and everything that can wait.
  4. Preparing for coming back. I’ve set aside several hours on my first day back to read and respond to emails and voicemails that came during my absence. I’ve also got (yet another) list of things to do and check on once I return.
  5. Out of Office. I used to work with someone who never used her out of office, and so people had no idea that she was on vacation for a week. My out of office will be very clear, and include the dates I’ll be out and information about who to contact for urgent matters.
  6. Let things go. There are a few things that just won’t get done before I leave, and there’s nothing I can do about it. I have to just let that go. Everyone knows I’ll be out, and if they can’t get back to me before I leave then it will still be here when I return.

Whew! It does actually help to have everything written down. It sounds crazy, but even with all of the travel I do I’ve never been out of the office for nine days before. But I’m sure everything will be fine!

Readers, did I miss anything? What is the longest you’ve ever been away from the office?


  1. My favorite out of office message is:

    I am out of the office until …. Your messages will be deleted in the order received.

    Do make sure, though, that your system is set to only send it one time to each sender and to never send it to mailing lists.

  2. i change my voicemail message and also put an “out of office” message on a small whiteboard that i leave propped on my desktop.

  3. I leave for 3 months EVERY year and follow many of the ideas of Tim Ferris from his book The 4-Hour Work Week or those on his blog. Really helpful in designing systems to leave me free from worry on such long trips!

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