Whether you’re going on holiday, taking an overseas business trip or about to kick-off an executive leadership programme which will take you out of action for a number of weeks, taking leave from your day to day management role can often bring about more stress than a cat going scuba diving.

I decided to write about this topic because I’m off to Costa Rica today to enjoy ten days of relaxation, revitalization and healthy yoga vibes in the South American jungle. In discussing my impending trip with some of the leaders I coach, many rolled their eyes at the familiar pre-leave whirlwind – lamenting the insidious yet pervasive stress that often accompanies leave from the office.

Bags packed and happy to be (finally) on my way to Costa Rica...

Here I am, bags packed and happy to be (finally) on my way to Costa Rica…

A vacation (or any leave from your day job for that matter) has a way of making us think the world is going to end. We feel the need to complete 1,234,753 tasks, all of which are ‘urgent’, and we fly around like possessed whirligigs, trying to get everything done before we go.

Sound familiar? Here’s the thing. Soz ’bout it but the world ain’t gonna end when you’re away.

So how do you put those pesky stress levels in their place?

Here are 7 tips for dealing with pre-leave stress:

  1. Make a (small) priority list. Make a list of the things you absolutely need to get done before you leave and put a red line through the rest. Too often, we have unrealistic expectations of what is possible prior to a leave of absence. Does that engagement survey absolutely, must, at all costs need to be completed before you hop on the plane? Didn’t think so.
  2. Business critical? Do it. Otherwise, do yourself a favour and either delegate, delay or ditch.
  3. Delegate and develop (in a timely manner). Use your absence as an opportunity for your direct reports to step up. As long as you don’t dump a mile high pile of tasks on your poor hapless team members the moment you dash out that door – then you would be THAT GUY. See here for tips on how to delegate effectively. A leave of absence is the perfect opportunity for extension projects – don’t waste it. It also means you keep things progressing nicely in your absence and can test out potential successors.
  4. Pack ahead of time. This one might seem a bit OTT and perhaps more suited to a lifestyle blog than a leadership one, but hear me out. This week, I adopted this strategy and it made a spectacular difference to my stress levels. Start packing the week before, instead of the night before. Find packing lists online, research popular items to bring to the place you are going. Have a Travel Kit for Business like this one on hand, with adaptors, spare chargers and other handy bits and pieces.
  5. Meditate. If you haven’t heard of Headspace, I suggest you download it right this minute. Headspace is a guided meditation app that provides the tools you need to relax and refocus your energy. I use Headspace for ten minutes every day and I’ve really noticed a difference in my stress levels. Read here for more about this amazing app. Meditation or practicing mindfulness is scientifically proven to reduce stress and improve leadership performance.
  6. Ask for help. Yes, you are a rockstar but even rockstars need to ask for help sometimes. Your PA is your best friend when you’re about to go AWOL. Get super detailed with her/him on how your email will be handled, what constitutes “an emergency” and levels and methods of communication whilst you’re away. Tim Ferris (my current blogger/podcaster crush) goes even so far as having a separate email for his inner circle like PA or close friends whilst he’s overseas.  See the 4 Hour Work Week for his clever tips on how to keep things running smoothly whilst you are globetrotting.
  7. A final word of advice? When you jump on that plane, leave it all behind… and relax.  When you hit the airport lounge, pour yourself a glass of your favourite tipple and start to enjoy what lies ahead. Costa Rica is a place I have dreamed about for a lifetime. When I’ve felt the Stress Monster creep into my psyche this week, I’ve taken a few minutes just to daydream about the jungle walks and the relaxing yoga I’m going to experience. In just a short time, I’m going to be living my dream – so what if I’m a little stressed?

What other tips do you have for putting pre-leave stress in its place? I’d love to hear your comments – please share your thoughts below.