Skip to main contentA logo with &quat;the muse&quat; in dark blue text.
Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work-Life Balance

How to Take a Vacation and Still Be on Track for a Promotion

When you’re looking to get ahead at work, taking time off for a vacation may seem like a luxury you just can’t afford. You’ve got an inbox full of emails, a deadline quickly approaching, and a performance review coming up—so you forego the allure of a relaxing beach vacation in hopes of finally getting that promotion.

Well, you’re not alone. In fact, 42% of U.S. workers don’t take all of their time off. And with good reason: Some studies show that those who don’t take all of their vacation days are more likely to get promoted.

But before you pack away your swimsuit for good, you should know that there is also research that proves that skipping vacations to get ahead at work isn’t the way to go. Taking time off allows you to recharge and return to work happier, healthier, and more productive. In fact, people who take vacation average performance reviews that are 8% higher the following year (for each additional 10 hours of time off). Not to mention, you may even be able to turn your vacation into a tax deduction!

If you’d like to take a vacation without sacrificing your career advancement, follow these six easy steps:

1. Plan Ahead

Before you plan your trip, consider when the best time of year to take a vacation may be. Check company guidelines and your schedule to choose dates that won’t interfere with major projects or deadlines. Be sure to keep your co-workers in mind as well, since they’ll likely take on some of your work.

Once you have an idea of when you’d like to plan your vacation, it’s time to ask your boss. Instead of demanding time off, discuss the dates you had in mind to see if it’s possible for you to get away. After all, your boss is unlikely to hold your vacation against you if he helped you plan it!

As a bonus, planning ahead maximizes your vacation happiness. A well-thought-out plan reduces stress and gives you more time to anticipate the vacation, which can make you as happy as the trip itself.

2. Prepare for Your Trip

Once your boss has given you the go-ahead and you’ve booked the vacation, it’s time to get to work.

Make a list of everything that needs to be finished before you leave and allot time to make sure you accomplish it all. Of course, you’ll need to make sure all major projects are done on your end, but you’ll also need help from your co-workers to make your vacation go smoothly (keep reading to learn how).

3. Delegate Tasks

For many people (cough, control freaks), relinquishing authority to others is the hardest part of taking a vacation. Well, it’s time to take a deep breath and learn to let go, because delegating is crucial to your success.

Face it: You won’t be able to do everything while you’re gone—nor should you. Delegating tasks to co-workers will not only help you have a stress-free vacation, but it’ll help your team grow as well. If you’re a manager, look at sharing your responsibilities as an opportunity to empower your employees, which will in turn build up your credibility as a leader.

And if you’re just asking a colleague to cover for you? Build goodwill by offering to the same for her when she goes away the following month.

4. Make Yourself Available

With technology making it so easy to communicate, you might consider not disconnecting (at least entirely) while on vacation. In fact, 44% of workers say that they check work messages at least once a day while on vacation.

While some vacationers can choose whether or not to check in, disconnecting entirely may not be an option for others—54% of workers say their bosses expect them to stay connected.

Even if it’s not required, it may be wise to make yourself (somewhat) available while away. Before you leave, email your team the days you’ll be gone and set aside times when you’ll be available to take emails or help with emergency situations. Chances are, no one will contact you, but your boss will feel much better knowing that you’re available if needed.

5. Inform Clients

Keeping your clients happy is one of the most important parts of your job. So, take the time to let major clients know that you’ll be away, and leave information for a secondary point of contact in case they need anything.

Then, remember to set up your “out of office” auto-responder. When setting yours, you can—and should—ditch the standard response in lieu of one that’s more interesting. Try one of these responses that entertain, inform, and engage receivers all while letting them know you care.

6. Plan for Your Return

Actively planning for your return is one of the best things you can do before leaving. Resist the urge to make up for lost time by scheduling meetings on your first day back. Instead, factor in some transition time to get caught up. Consider taking a half-day your first day back, or at the very least giving yourself an extra day to catch up before telling others you’ll be in the office.

By planning effectively, you’ll be able to maximize your vacation and impress your boss by being on top of things when you return.

Taking a vacation doesn’t have to be hard—for you or for your career. Of course, whatever approach you decide to take should be tailored to your company, but once you’ve planned ahead? Go enjoy—then return refreshed and ready to nab that promotion.

Photo of woman on vacation courtesy of Shutterstock.