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Vacation? Leave your email at the office

(MoneyWatch) COMMENTARY Vacation is a stressful time of year -- despite the break you're about to get from the office, you're probably stressed about the volume of email that will flow in while you're away. Some people deal with the load by constantly checking and responding to mail while on vacation -- which is actually no vacation at all.

David Grossman, communication consultant and author of books like You Can't NOT Communicate, has some advice to help you manage the message load and take a more effective, relaxing break. Specifically, he says that just a few tips can make all the difference -- but if you can't follow through on staying disconnected from the office for a few days, you need to re-evaluate your leadership and management skills:

"If you can't disconnect from email to go on vacation for a week, it's says a lot about your effectiveness as a leader. The most effective leaders plan ahead, manage up, set their team up for success, and understand the value of time off to recharge. Plus, think about the shadow you're casting for your staff when you're connected on vacation - that they need to do the same."

Here are some specifics on vacation planning:

Plan ahead. It's important to think about your time away at least a few weeks before your vacation. Ensure that active projects take your absence into account, both so they have sufficient lead time and people know how to manage the effort in your absence.

Don't leave mysteries in your wake. Be sure to communicate detailed project statuses to everyone involved -- especially your manager -- so there's less need to ping you while you're away. Failure to do this one thing can lead to the most "red bang" emails assaulting your time while you're on vacation.

Set expectations. Make sure everyone is aware of your vacation dates in advance. The best way to avoid email is to tell everyone ahead of time that you will not be checking messages. If all of your key contacts know you won't be on mail for a week, you can ignore email with a clear conscience.

Set an OOO message. Be sure to set your Out of Office message in Outlook or whatever email client you use. Indicate specific people as contacts -- down to the project level, if necessary. Your OOO message should give everyone in your office all the information they need to carry on without you for a week or so.

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