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by Stephan Maldonado | November 19, 2019


 For many of us, next week brings the promise of turkey and traditions, football and family time. Next week might entail a long flight, and it almost certainly entails at least one day off—if not two or three. And while a short week comes as a relief or a much-needed break, it can also be a source of potential stress.

Work doesn’t stop just because the week ends on Wednesday. We’re still expected to meet our deadlines. Those of us balancing work with school must still study for exams (especially as the semester nears its end) and contribute to group projects. Our responsibilities don’t hit “pause” when we do, so it falls upon us to meet those responsibilities in a way that allows us to enjoy our time off without overwhelming ourselves in the days leading up to Thanksgiving. 

To avoid trying to cram five days worth of work into three—or leaving work to loom over you until the Sunday before you return to the office—here are a few tips for planning ahead before a short week.

Reschedule (or avoid) all nonessential meetings.

Nobody wants to spend their precious few days before a holiday tied up in meetings. Sure, some are unavoidable, but you’ll find that most meetings can easily be moved to accommodate the short week. You’ll also likely find that most of your coworkers will be more than happy to reschedule a nonessential meeting during the week of a holiday.

It’s ideal to try moving the meeting up to the week before your short week. This prevents important issues from going unaddressed for too long. And, let’s face it, no matter how far ahead you plan, you’re going to have a lot to catch up on your first day back. It’s better to hold outstanding meetings before the holiday rather than after, to avoid returning to an overcrowded schedule. 

Of course, not all meetings are easily rescheduled, but for those that are, doing so will free up a significant amount of time that you can use to complete your work before you leave for the holiday.

Prioritize your task list.

The Monday of Thanksgiving week isn’t the time to figure out what you have to do that week. You’d be surprised how much time you spend assessing your workload to determine your priorities and which tasks involve the most effort. Doing this ahead of time can help you enter the holiday week with a clear understanding of what, exactly, you have to do before the holiday.

During a short week, it’s important to spend your time focused on only what has to get done that week. It starts with something as simple as a list. Here are some good questions to ask yourself when organizing your task list:

  • Which tasks on my list are the hardest? 
  • Which tasks require the most time?
  • Which tasks can I start this week?
  • Which tasks can I start when I return?
  • Which tasks are due the soonest, and which have later due dates?

If there’s anything you can start the week before the holiday, doing so can free up some time during the short week. Similarly, if there’s a task that’s not due for several more weeks, leave it until you return from the holiday so that you’re only focused on your most urgent tasks. Decluttering your workload can help you maximize your time.

Carve out more time in your schedule.

There are ways to work more hours in a week without running yourself ragged. Carving out just two more hours a day during a regular week can yield ten more hours that week, and during Thanksgiving week, you can eke out at least an additional four to six hours. Whenever possible, try to start work a half-hour to an hour earlier each day the week before Thanksgiving, and if you can work later by that amount of time, do that too. Reorganizing your meetings schedule the week of a holiday is a part of this, as well, as is taking shorter lunches. 

Of course, you’re entitled to (and should take) plenty of time away from your desk, and you should only work over if you can do so without sacrificing productivity. But if you’re looking for ways to make the week of Thanksgiving just a little less busy, working just a few extra hours the week before might free up some time.

Be clear about your availability.

Your office might be closed only on Thursday, or it might be closed on Thursday and Friday. However, everybody’s availability might be different. Some people might be taking the entire week off from work. Some might be taking Wednesday as a travel day. Others might not be going out of town, and even if the office is closed for the rest of the week, some people might be checking emails over the long weekend.

Everyone keeps a different schedule during the holidays. Whether you’re on PTO, working from home, or not working but still responding to emergencies, you must communicate your availability to everyone who might need to get a hold of you during the long weekend. 

Sure, your coworkers aren’t likely to email you on Thanksgiving, but what if you’ve got international clients (or coworkers) who are working the entire week? And emergencies happen, so your manager might find themselves in a situation where they feel they have no choice but to reach out. Will you be available to respond?

Before leaving for Thanksgiving, communicate what your availability will be during the long weekend. This way, the relevant people know what to expect: whether they can anticipate a response to an emergency, or whether anything they send you will have to wait until the following Monday. Even though it’s a holiday that most people will have off, it still helps to set an out-of-office email.