Airplane by Atelier Iceberg from The Noun Project

Airplane by Atelier Iceberg from The Noun Project

The average worker’s backlog is around 30 hours, or roughly three or four days of things that are begging to be finished. How can you power through this nagging heap? Simple: treat it like you’re going on vacation. According to 168 Hours author Laura Vanderkam:

The deadline of leaving is the thing that’s finally going to motivate you to get it done. The stuff that gets on your backlog is usually big and intimidating, anything that takes deep, concentrated, uninterrupted time to get done. 

Productivity expert David Allen suggests that we adopt this vacation mentality regularly: 

Most people feel best about their work the week before their vacation, but it’s not because of the vacation itself. What do you do the last week before you leave on a big trip? You clean up, close up, clarify, and renegotiate all your agreements with yourself and others. I just suggest that you do this weekly instead of yearly.

Think of all the things that you do before you’re about to go on vacation — you rush to define the priorities, necessities and back-up plans to prepare your clients and/or team for a period of time in which you’ll be “off the grid.” Work like you’re about to go on vacation and you’ll be able to de-clutter and step far away from your projects without worry.


  • zed

    Theoretically, this is a great idea. In practice, however, I’m not sure how well it would work.

    You can’t possibly trick your mind into thinking you’re going on a vacation when you’re not, so you’re more likely to be less productive (and sad) than usual. However, as a leader, it may be a good idea to causally drop to your teammates that you’ll “be away most of next week” and watch how fast things get done!

    • csskarma

      I agree that it might not work in practice (at least not long term). Seems like it would lead to more burnout than productivity. The reason we can work that much before vacation is because the vacation allows time to recharge. Without that you’ll just fry yourself.

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