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Go on vacation (without losing your mind)

(MoneyWatch) Here's the irony of vacations. If you didn't need one when you planned to take time off, you sure will after the rush to get done before you head out the door. But it's possible, with a little planning, to survive the pre-vacation blitz. Here's how:

1. Take the long view. What needs to get done during your vacation time, and also in the week or so after you return? Make a list.

2. Get real. Ok, so you've got your list -- what actually doesn't have to happen? You may be trying to convince yourself that the report you've been procrastinating writing for 2 months would happen during your vacation week, but it probably wouldn't.

3. Pace yourself. You may have to work some longer hours in the time leading up to your vacation to address everything on your real to-do list, but try not to do it all the day before. Identify a few days over the two weeks before hand that you can work 30-60 minutes extra, rather than trying to do 6 hours extra while you're trying to pack.

4. Talk to your team. Is everyone clear on what they need to do while you're gone? Do they know who to report to? Who will cover for your daily responsibilities?

5. Write a simple out-of-office email. Now is not the time for saying anything philosophical about work or vacation time. Also, don't taunt people with a note that you're "occasionally checking email." Say you'll return messages when you return -- then let people be surprised if they do hear from you.

6. Unplug...mostly. Checking email or voice mail constantly on vacation is no fun. But there's nothing wrong with allocating 20 minutes every other day to reminding yourself that your colleagues are competent people. Check your email, see that they're putting out any fires, and relax.

How do you prep for vacation?

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