Planes, trains, and automobiles: ’tis the season for traveling, and with it, the return of Murphy’s Law in full force. You may be the world’s best planner, but inevitably some unforeseen circumstance will likely throw a wrench into them. There’s no need to panic, though. While unexpected delays and detours can put a dent in your productivity, you have the advantage of time—time to consider alternatives and workarounds for holiday-related snags.
Wouldn’t it be great if you could sort out issues before they happen? Here’s a few ways you can manage your own (and others’) expectations while you’re maneuvering “over the river and through the woods.”
Identify potential challenges.
Ever participated in one of those wide-open brainstorming sessions—the kind where anything is on the table and no idea is too crazy? I suggest incorporating this perspective when thinking about all of the things that can go wrong.
These could include, but certainly aren’t limited to: public transit shutdowns, flight cancellations, inexplicable tech failures and/or unavailable replacement parts, poor or spotty Internet service, inclement weather, power outages, sold-out hotels, booked-up restaurants, overly crowded sidewalks, ambient noise, seasonal allergies and viruses of all kinds that impact you, your family, your colleagues, and your customers. Phew! I may have missed other points of frustration there, so you’d be wise to continue on and create your own list; only when you know what you’re up against with your holiday travel can you have a useful back-up plan.
Make your days off known.
OK, maybe you don’t have to tweet this out or make it part of your Instagram story—but letting colleagues, supervisors, and clients know exactly when you can be reached (and more importantly, when you absolutely can’t) will make your merrymaking infinitely better. (Who wants to get pulled onto an ad hoc conference call shortly after arriving at your folks’ or in-laws’ place? Not me, and I’ll bet you wouldn’t, either.)
Determining when your designated red dates fall and providing plenty of advance notice to others about your impending unavailability is a smart move—especially if you’re in a leadership role. Nothing sets a better tone internally than demonstrating your own commitment to work-life balance, and that starts with you stepping away from your laptop, smartphone, etc., when you have important personal festivities happening.
Don’t succumb to wishful thinking.
If you’re not usually able to focus on work during long-haul flights, don’t start believing it’ll be possible at this time of year. Traffic might be light on Sunday mornings, but probably not before a major holiday. If a certain number of virtual meetings are helpful in a typical workweek, don’t assume that you (or others) will be available or mentally checked-in enough to schedule these as usual, or (heaven forbid) ramp up to more.
In short, now is not the time to institute changes, high-stakes deadlines, or hoped-for productivity bursts. Although going with the flow of work at an adjusted pace might seem lax—especially when you’re busy with a long list of personal to-dos as well—you’re probably going to accomplish more by taking a Zen approach versus a frenetic one.
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