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

The Free Worksheet That'll Make Taking Vacation So Much Less Stressful

person on computer
pixelfit/Getty Images

Lest you think this is an article about how to find cheap airfare to Hawaii or how to get that five-star hotel at a two-star price, let me be clear: I have no tips on these covetable items.

I do, however, have some handy advice for how to plan a less stressful vacation. And, no, I’m not going to tell you to practice yoga or pack in advance or get to the airport early (though none of those things are bad ideas). Rather, I’d like to encourage you to consider the ways that advance planning can allow you more freedom to truly unplug from work and get the recharge you need, thereby making your time off the best it can be.

Admittedly, I’m one of those people who likes to plan. (I may or may not have my vacations semi-planned through the beginning of 2019.) Because of my planning instincts, I’ve always requested PTO as far in advance as possible and was surprised recently when a close friend told me on a Monday that she’d decided to take Friday off because she wanted to go on a road trip.

“And your boss was fine with that?” I’d asked incredulously.

“Yeah, I have plenty of days left,” she answered as though it were no big deal.

She might have the unused vacation days, and, granted, she wasn’t giving her manager four days’ notice for time off of any significant length, but it still seemed terribly last-minute to me.

So it was no surprise that a survey from Office Team revealed the finding that in summer months 32% of people are guilty of “not planning well for vacations.” For what it’s worth, 22% of employees had “unexplained absences,” which suggests the possibility that a long weekend away was decided on the spur of the moment, making the employee suddenly, unexpectedly absent. These were both—understandably so—deemed pejorative behaviors.

Which is why you should ask your boss for time off the right way. The courtesy of a proper heads up—whether you’re taking three days or two weeks off. Not only will they appreciate it, but you’ll no doubt reap the benefits too.

Then—here comes my trick—you’re going to want to do a reverse countdown, like the one I created before my honeymoon last summer.

To help you do that, I’ve created this simple worksheet for you to fill out.

It’s hard to get ahead if you leave things to the last possible minute. Not to mention, knowing you have time off planned in two months gives you a chance to think of the coming weeks, dispersing a little work here and a little work there, rather than attempting to squeeze it all into a small window.

And while it might be unrealistic for you to get everything done before you leave, my guess is that your supervisor’s likely to be a lot more amenable to helping you take stress-free time off if you’ve been thoughtful about what taking that time will mean for your team. (For example, sharing this completed worksheet when you request your time off.)

If taking a stress-free vacation is as easy as spending 15 to 30 minutes coming up with a plan—and I think it is—you can ensure that you’re not engaging in one of the “most common negative employee behaviors at this time of year.”

After all, why spend your summer sitting in the office or stressing when you’re out of it when you can avoid both?