A Designer’s Survival Guide for Prepping for Vacation

You need a vacation. And guess what! You can take one. Even if you work for yourself. Especially if you work for yourself.

When you’ve got a full workload of design projects, it can seem like it’s impossible to take a day off, let alone take a full vacation. But keep this in mind: the greatest asset you have as a designer is you. [twitter_link]Time away from work is a critical element of good mental health.[/twitter_link] If you don’t get enough of it, you risk overworking yourself, stifling your creativity, and burning out.

Still not convinced? Think about it this way. If you work for an agency or other corporation, you’ve likely got vacation time built into your benefits package. That means it’s expected that you take a vacation.

And if you’re the boss (and HR and the staff) then you get to decide how much vacation you can take, and when to take it. You started working for yourself so that you would have more free time, right? What’s the point of doing that if you never actually take advantage of it?

image of a bridge leading to a gazebo on the ocean

No matter what, you need to give yourself permission to take your vacation days. To make it happen, just follow these tips and then download our free checklist!

Plan Your Deadlines Around it

When you’ve got a vacation on the books and it’s not just a spontaneous weekend away, schedule your deadlines and milestones around the vacation. When you can hand over a project to the client and move into “waiting for feedback” mode right before taking some time off, you’ll be in a great place to take the mental break that you really need.

Give Yourself Buffers

Remember Parkinson’s Law—the one that says that work will expand to fill the time you allot it. If you don’t want to be running around like a maniac closing up shop on Friday before you leave, then act like Thursday is your last day. Having some breathing space to wrap things up nicely, get everything in order, and handle any last-second issues will send you off in great shape to come back effectively.

And speaking of coming back effectively, do the same thing for the day of your return. When you’re looking at the calendar the week of your return, give yourself at least a full day of “re-entry” before jumping right back into productive work mode.

Schedule meetings or client calls, plan to do some light sketching or brainstorming, or just plan for a “desk day” on your first day or two back, instead of making yourself crank all the way up to 10 with creative deadlines in the first hour. Future you will thank current you for setting things up so it’s not a madhouse of pressure your first day back.


Leave Yourself Clues

Whenever you step away from your desk, whether it’s for a week or a night, leave yourself notes, to-do lists, and next steps to take. That way, you won’t lose too much time trying to get reacquainted and figuring out what was going on and what you were in the middle of doing when you left.

Tell Your Clients

If you’re going to be out of pocket for a few days, let your clients know at least a couple of weeks in advance. This is a major courtesy to them, and they’ll appreciate the heads up—especially if you do ongoing work for them. You never know what their internal calendars are dictating, and by extension, when they’d need to be in closer contact with you.

The more notice you can give, the more you equip them to handle your absence…and the less likely it will be that you’ll have a bunch of fires to put out and clients to placate when you get back.


Tap a Colleague

Find a trusted colleague or peer who’s willing and able to take on any “emergency” requests for you that need to be turned around while you’re gone. Then, a week before you leave, remind your clients that you’ll be away and let them know that if something urgent comes up, they can contact your colleague for help. You’ll also need to tell them that this work will come at an adjusted (meaning, higher) rate. And of course, be prepared to compensate your buddy for filling in for you!

This can be a good solution whether you’ll be working on this vacation or not—but it’s probably a good idea to have someone ready to jump in no matter what your plans are.

Depending on what your arrangement is, you may want to include this person’s contact information in your vacation email responder (and voicemail, if you have one).

Make it Fun to Come Back

If you can, plan something fun to jump into on your first day back after a vacation. When you get something you think you’ll really enjoy, try to slate it for right after you get back. Having that project to look forward to on your return will make it a little easier to click back into work mode after a much-needed break.

Final Thoughts on Taking a Vacation as a Designer

Because it can be hard to get away, many of us never take a break. But just a little bit of smart preparation will make it much more feasible for you to get away and come back in good shape. Bon voyage!

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