I leave for a much needed week’s vacation in four days. It’s easy to tell I’m wrapping up business before a getaway because (a) I’m writing like a mad person to make a deadline, (b) the office, house and car are disaster areas as I focus on getting work done before I leave, and (c) it’s already 2 p.m. and I’m just now getting around to writing the day’s blog post.
When you work for yourself, there’s always a lot to do before you can take time off. That’s especially true for writers and creative types who have lots of ongoing projects in various stages of completeness.
So here’s my go-to checklist of eight things freelancers absolutely, positively need to do before heading out of town:
1. Finish all projects – Don’t leave town thinking you’ll sneak in a little time on the laptop to write those last 500 words on a story that’s due. You’ll never be able to relax with unfinished work hanging over your head.
2. Get ahead – Got a story due the day you get back? Write it while your research and reporting are still fresh. Who’s going to feel like cranking out something on deadline the day they get back from a break? Not you.
3. Let editors know you’ll be gone – If you’ve got stories waiting to be edited, the last thing you want is an editor emailing you about revisions while you’re on the beach somewhere. Check in with them ahead of time to remind them of your availability, or lack thereof. Even if they don’t remember – and face it, some won’t – at least they’ll have the paper trail of your attempt to warn them sitting in their email inbox.
4. Send invoices – You finished the story, the editor signed off on it, so why wait? It’ll mean getting the money that much faster.
5. Pay bills – So you don’t have to think about the bills you forgot to pay while you’re away.
6. Set up an automatic out-of-the-office message on your email – There’s nothing worse than coming back to the office to hundreds of email messages screaming to be answered. An “I’m out of the office” notice that you set up to reply to any incoming email may not stem the tide of electronic messages but at least it can manage the expectations of the senders so they’ll know when they’re likely to hear back from you.
7. Straigthen up your office – This is a throwback to when I was young and my mom could never leave for vacation without cleaning the entire house. But it’s true – there’s nothing better than being away and coming back to a clean house, or office. It’s like coming back to fresh start on the next chapter of your life. Come back to a cluttered, dirty, messy office and you’re back in the same swamp you had to go on vacation to get away from.
8. Put a vacation hold on your newspaper and mail – You’ll have plenty of time to catch up with the news without having to plow through all those back issues. And have the post office resume mail delivery the day after you return – give yourself another day to relax.