Work too hard before your vacation?

That’s what one reader asked recently on the Admin Pro Forum:

“I actually stress out a little when my vacation rolls around, because I feel I should work far ahead as a courtesy to the team so they don’t have to do anything for me that I could conceivably do in advance. Without them ever asking me to make that effort, sometimes I wind up working frantically because I don’t want to burden anyone during those two weeks. Am I doing the courteous thing, or am I unnecessarily taking on too much?” —Shayley, Tax Preparation Assistant

We reached out to some experts for their advice on reducing pre-vacation stress.

Prioritize your tasks into three categories. When preparing to leave for vacation, list the tasks that you need to finish before you go, those that need to be handled by co-workers while you’re out and those that can wait until you get back, says Doug Walker, manager of HR services and service operations at Insperity, an HR outsourcing firm. This will help you thin your to-do list by understanding what’s important and what can wait, he says.

Leave time in your pre-vacation schedule to tie up loose ends. Instead of trying to cram in new meetings and tasks before vacation, use the two weeks before you leave to finish projects and important deadlines, says career counselor and licensed psychologist Maelisa Hall. Don’t wait until your last two days of work to make sure everything is ready for your absence, she says.

Talk to your supervisor and co-workers about what will need to be covered. Discuss what tasks need to be completed, Walker says, and let your co-workers know your plan to do the same for them when it’s their turn to take time off. “Assuring teammates as well as supervisors that you will reciprocate when necessary goes a long way in building good working relationships,” he says. Plus, a promise to pay it back can help alleviate any guilt you might feel.

Also consider building in a single catch-up day on the very end of your vacation where you’ll commit to checking emails and doing little things remotely to ease your way back into the workday chaos.

Here’s how readers responded to Shayley’s problem:

“You are taking on too much; every position should have a Standard Operating Procedures manual, and it should be created by the person who is doing the job. Holidays are meant to be enjoyed and to reduce stress, not cause more.” — Jackqueline

“I agree that it is a courtesy. Everyone is already going to be busy doing their own job; we try to do all we can to lessen how much of our job someone else needs to cover in our absence.” — Mark

“I had to take a family leave for five weeks, with only two weeks to prepare. By meeting with individuals, asking them what I needed to do for them, that helped a lot. I reviewed my regular list of responsibilities and made sure they would be taken care of. I also leaned on two admins as points of contact. I created a detailed out-of-office for emails so that others would know who to contact in my absence, including voice mail. It was all about planning and deep breathing.” — Barbara

“There should be cross-training completed so that you shouldn’t have to work harder just to take a needed and planned vacation. If you have planned your vacation far enough in advance, add extra to-do tasks to your weekly and daily planner that might help you to work ahead, but in a more controlled and sane way.” — DeeDee