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Getting Things Done When Everyone’s Gone

There are three times every year when most businesses empty out::

  • Winter holidays: The week before Thanksgiving, the weeks before and after Christmas and the week after New Years

  • The weeks before and after Easter

  • Late July and early August

  • And then there’s now..during the Coronavirus pandemic.


1. Plan Ahead

Schedule and complete your people dependent projects for times when people are likely to be around and stockpile your alone projects to work on when you know people will be gone. For example, if you are working on a project that involves conducting interviews: do the interviews before everyone leaves and save the write-ups for when they’re gone.

2. Find a Sub

If the project has to be completed while your colleagues are on vacation; before they go, consider asking your colleagues to appoint go-to subs with authority to fill in for them until they return.

3. Schedule a Brief Touch Base Time Every Day

No one likes to be interrupted when they’re on vacation, but if you absolutely need the input of someone who’s away, ask if you can touch base for 10 minutes at some agreed upon time once every day. Then stick to it. If your colleagues are expecting the call/email they won’t feel like you are interrupting.

4. Do Everything that You Can By Yourself

Do as much of the project as you possibly can by yourself and extend just a little beyond your actual authority without finalizing anything. For example, if you were tasked with creating a job description for the manager of a new department, go ahead and create suggested job descriptions for other key positions in that department also. This is actually a great time to prove that you can handle bigger responsibilities.

5. Finish the Project Yourself

If you’re really tight for time, go ahead and finish the project in draft form—highlighting everything that you need to discuss when your colleagues return.

6. Start preparing for your own vacation

If you are planning on taking a vacation yourself shortly after your colleagues return, make a schedule of what needs to get done by the entire team before you leave and what your are/are not comfortable with them working on in your absence. Adjust project deadlines if you need to. Insist on a 10-minute touch base call at the same time every day while you’re away, but be clear that you will not be working while you are on vacation.

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