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4 ways to still be effective during holiday leave

Looking to log-off but stay connected this holiday season? Whether you’re going to be travelling locally or abroad, working from home, or having a “Staycation” we’ve got four ways for you to make your time out of the office seem as if you haven’t missed a beat.

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As much as we love to deny it, today’s generation of online professionals are workaholics. We wake up and check our emails over our morning coffee, we monitor our projects on our lunch break, we network after work, and we tweet our industry news while brushing our teeth.

The concept of an eight-hour workday is a thing of the past. We are working harder, faster, and longer. So how do we even think about going on holiday leave?

Before I suggest how to easily stay connected, ask yourself if that’s what you really want and need during your time off work. Sometimes, especially for techies, we really need to distance ourselves from our work. Although technology and online professionals have a higher job satisfaction rate, they also are at higher risk of job burnout. Earlier in 2009, more than 70% of IT professionals globally said they were satisfied with their job; within that statistic, 40% went so far as to say they were ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ satisfied. However, let’s face it; these jobs are generally very stressful, deadline intensive, and laden with internal frustrations.

Therefore, it becomes even more crucial for those looking to disconnect and recharge to go on leave with the assurance that their digital sky will not fall down while they aren’t looking.

1. Automate, automate, automate

Other than the obvious auto-reply your email should be generating while you’re out and about, let’s not forget our other platforms that if ignored can raise some eyebrows. Assemble a stockpile of tweets and Facebook status updates that are relevant and interesting – include links to articles you’ve always liked, valuable insights, quirky tidbits, you name it.

Make a checklist of ideal online activity (how many tweets per day, how many links per week, etc.) for each respective platform. Assemble the content you’d like to feed your platforms for the duration of your leave and start loading that content into your managing program/system of choice.

Schedule them to post at optimal times to get maximum exposure, think about your audience and gauge both the times and frequencies according to them, and don’t forget to sprinkle a little bit of holiday cheer for good measure.

I’m a huge fan of HootSuite and TweetDeck, simply because you can manage everything from Twitter to Facebook to FourSquare and even LinkedIn for multiple accounts, all from one dashboard.

A helpful Twitter rule of thumb: Tuesday is the most happening day on Twitter, followed by Wednesday and Friday; Monday and Saturdays – not so much.

2. Be agile, not fragile – go mobile!

There is a balance one must strike between automation and conversation. If someone has engaged with you directly, it’s only polite to engage back. Most online professionals have already downloaded and installed their various platforms to their mobile devices. Whether it be an iPhone, Blackberry, Palm, Nokia, Android, Windows Phone, etc. just about every mobile device has an interactive application that will enable you to have both basic and comprehensive coverage for your account.

Apps for your mobile device are crucial to staying connected. Accept your friend requests, re-tweet the latest Memeburn article (hey, I said valuable insights), and Digg your favourite headlines before you finish your first sundowner. Not sure how you will cope when your assistant is also on their leave? Try Evernote, a fantastic way to stay on top of admin that uses text, image, and voice capture to keep you organized. Don’t forget to enable your work and personal email to be routed to your phone if you haven’t already, and if you are going somewhere rural set up a few of your favourite news sources onto your Google Reader App. Be sure to go on leave fully armed with your applications up and running, and test-driven!

3. Keep your head in the clouds

Cloud Services that is. There are many remotely accessible, web-based data storage and computing services that enable you to access all your data and use a multitude of programs from anywhere with an internet connection. A comprehensive one for the Microsoft workplace is Windows Azure. Those running with Apple products can turn to SugarSync or MobileMe depending on what your needs are.

The most straightforward to use and activate is Google Docs. Find this cloud storage service ready and waiting in your Gmail account! The Documents tab, located in the top left-hand corner, will easily store files from your desktop, your email, and any device you log-in and load from. Keep data you need accessible from outside of the office with this free addition to the Google repertoire.

You can also work within this cloud system to create and edit documents, spreadsheets, and presentations as well as share them with other Google Docs users. Google starts users with 1024MB of storage at no charge and also has a search function that finds all relevant items containing your term, even PDF’s.

4. Having a ‘Staycation’? Develop your projects and yourself!

Most tech-savvy professionals have a side-venture (or four) that they are involved in. If this is you, consider spending time developing that. Take a ‘vacation’ from your regular job while on leave and enhance your personal online presence. Are you participating in as much Social Media as you would like to be? Do you have a personal and/or professional blog? Always wanted to do an online course in SEO or Joomla?

Make a list of things you’d like to work on while on holiday leave and devise a schedule to accomplish as many of them as possible; track down others that are also staying close by for the holiday and work together to stay motivated and on track. In an ever-evolving field, members of the online community can easily stay connected to the industry by staying ahead of the game with both personal and professional development. Return to the office with renewed energy from your holiday productivity!

Regardless of if you’re looking forward to working hard or hardly working this holiday season, these methods to approaching out-of-office work will give anyone the tools to create a streamlined online presence, a portable and convenient workspace, and thereby more productive workflow – easily making any techie jump for holiday joy!

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