How to clear your to-do list before a holiday in 5 simple steps

Feeling stressed out about the amount of work you have to do before you go on holiday? Here’s how to get things under control, according to a ‘deep work’ expert.

Taking time off is supposed to be relaxing – but before you get the chance to sit back and unwind, you’ll likely still have plenty of admin and last-minute work dramas to deal with.

It always seems to be the way, isn’t it? No matter how much planning you do in the run-up to your annual leave, there’s always some kind of extra responsibility or forward planning that seems to sneak onto your to-do list at the very last minute.

So, how can you avoid getting into these kinds of situations? And what’s the best way to clear a to-do list when you feel snowed under?

To help you get started, we spoke to Alicia Navarro, CEO of the deep work start-up FLOWN, to get some handy tips and tricks. From avoiding multitasking to the secret of nailing ‘deep work’, here’s what she had to say. 

Start managing expectations early 

To make sure your colleagues don’t dump lots of work on you the day before you leave, it’s a good idea to communicate what you are and aren’t available to do in the weeks and days leading up to your time off.

“At least two weeks before you go, drop the fact that you’re going away into chats with colleagues about incoming work,” Navarro recommends. 

“It’s OK to say: ‘I won’t get to this until I’m back.’ Shortlist the things you will deliver before you go, and the things you won’t – and communicate your list.” 

Managing the expectations of others is crucial if you want to make space to clear your to-do list before you log off.

Experiment with timeboxing

If you’re someone who tends to take ages to get something done – either because you’re a perfectionist, or because you just like to take things slow – timeboxing could be an effective way to keep yourself on track.

“As check-out time approaches, timebox your tasks,” Navarro suggests. “This means allocating a set amount of time and getting it done in that time. Be realistic, then half it. This works especially well on your last few days, because there’s no time for you to question your work. Just do it!” 

Don’t multitask

If you want to get things done quickly, multitasking is not your friend. “Multitasking is the enemy of productivity, and contributes to overwhelm and stress,” Navarro explains. 

“Prioritise based on the things you intend to deliver before you go, and work through one at a time. You’ll feel better going on vacation knowing you completed a few important things, rather than leaving a bunch of things half-finished.”

Practising eep work is a great way to get things done in a timely manner.

Practise deep work

To practise deep work, you need two key ingredients: the ability to focus, and a cognitively demanding task.

“‘Deep work’ is work that requires your complete attention and pushes your abilities to their limits,” Navarro says. 

“Make sure you set aside time every day to work on your chunkiest tasks. Leave your colleagues with clear evidence of progress. You’ll feel better and they won’t need to question you when you’re not there.” 

Set short-term goals

In the same way that timeboxing can help you to stay on track, setting specific short-term goals for every day in the lead-up to your annual leave will help you to get everything done.

“If you’ve got a daily stand-up to attend, make sure you’re setting super specific goals for each day, and sharing it with your team,” Navarro says. 

“If you don’t have a daily stand-up, setting daily intentions is still a powerful motivator. Share with a friend, or use a FLOWN online deep work session.” 

Images: Getty

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