Beach bum. Outdoor adventurer. Culture queen. Festival fanatic. Culinary tourist. Whatever your vacation persona may be, your goal is most likely the same as everyone else’s: to leave your job behind and lose yourself in another world for a few blissful days with amazing food, friends and family.
Ideally, you’ll come back refreshed to a job where you are recognized for your brilliance by coworkers who are eagerly awaiting your return – not because things are running off the rails, but because you’re da bomb. This is totally possible. You just have to think (in the vocabulary of those employed by The Walt Disney Company) like a ‘cast member’ and focus on two things: the task at hand and the follow up to that task.
If you’re not familiar, Disney incorporates the “three o’clock parade” idea into its customer service training. It’s predicated on the idea that cast members will no doubt be asked every day “What time is the three o’clock parade?”
Rather than simply feeding guests the obvious answer, cast members are trained to think beyond the basic information and anticipate follow-up questions, enabling them to provide a richer response, layered with insider details that enhance the guest experience. When asked, cast members confirm the three o’clock start time, but then add on “extras” — sharing the best time to line up for the parade, recommending a prime spot for viewing the entertainment, and maybe some other tidbit, like which dining venues can get them in and out in time for the start of the parade.
By taking this three o’clock parade approach into the corporate setting, you can prep three critical entities for your vacation, and you’ll not only increase your chances of truly leaving your office cares behind and unplugging for awhile, but you’ll also be setting yourself up for a less stressful return to business.
Three O’Clock Parade Entity 1: Your Boss
As soon as you have your vacation dates approved, start looking ahead at your major tasks or projects for that timeframe. Note all of the details – deadlines, deliverables, resources, dependencies, collaborators, etc. – in a document or spreadsheet to help you flesh out the full body of work you need to account for. Then working backward from the last day or two at the office before your vacation, lay out your plan for what you can realistically accomplish before you leave, what can be rescheduled for after your return, and what you’ll need to have coverage for while you’re gone.
If you’re working on any time-sensitive projects, be sure to email a copy of your plan to your boss. Or better yet, take the initiative to schedule a coffee or breakfast meeting with them to sit down and go over your plan. Be prepared to address their top concern – namely, how will your absence impact this project – but then also be prepared with the answers to whatever next two questions naturally follow from that concern.
Three O’Clock Parade Entity 2: Your Back-up
The next person you need to prep is your back-up. Your back-up has his own job that he’s not going to just drop while you’re off having fun, so be clear about what you really need him to do. This can be done over a nice business lunch. Lay out all of the details on important projects, and provide access to the resources he’ll need in order to be prepared to act in your stead. Share that insider-level of information you’re keeping in your head so you’re not leaving him in the lurch. Your back-up will appreciate it, and have everything he needs to respond to requests while you’re away.
Three O’Clock Parade Entity 3: Yourself
When you’re making sure you’ve taken care of what everyone else needs from you before you leave, don’t forget about what you can do to help yourself. Start by blocking off the last two hours the last day and the first two hours when you return for yourself. With those timeslots blocked, you’ve made time to deal with out of office reminders for email and voicemail, and can take care of any last-minute tasks that pop up.
Set clear expectations about whether or not you’ll be reachable while you’re away, and, if you are reachable, by cell phone or email only? Under what circumstances? You might also leave a note on white board with your vacation dates, and send a team email or leave a printout of resources on your desk that you anticipate might curb those emergency “what’s our social media login” types of interruptions.
Create a new document on your computer, and dump all of your work worries, everything that’s on your mind, into it. Then shut it and leave it behind, knowing it’ll all be there when you get back.
And your last task: schedule a team lunch or happy hour for when you return so you can catch up, share stories, and recognize individuals for their work while you were gone.