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Gone golfin'

Once again, President Bush is taking a four-week vacation. Last year, he faced criticism for taking such a long break and now could face more.

As a Canadian government employee with 20 years of service, I'm used to long vacations and have learned how to minimize disruptions. Here are some handy hints I hope Mr. Bush followed:

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1. Let your office mates know you'll be away for four weeks so they can route all your work to others. You'll be surprised how smoothly things run in your absence.

2. Change your voicemail message. Tell callers when you'll be back but don't give them a number where they can reach you. Instead, give them the number of your closest subordinate (a secretary or a vice president, say) and let him or her do all the work.

3. Activate the out-of-office option on your e-mail. Again, don't give correspondents your home e-mail address. If you're not doing it already, make sure to have all incoming messages forwarded to your immediate subordinate. Or, if you're not big on computers, have all incoming messages automatically deleted to avoid a nasty backlog on your return.

4. Clear up those last-minute tasks in your in-basket. Maybe it's a tax break for friends or a tepid proposal for regulatory reform or a plan to invade some foreign country. Whatever it is, finish it up.

5. Do any last-minute stock shopping. With prices this low, now's the time to buy. If you wait until you're back, prices will likely be higher. And remember, if you buy now, with a little insider info, you can always sell at a profit when you return.

6. Don't stay away too long. Lengthy vacations are great, but the longer you're gone, the more co-workers figure out they don't really need you. And come 2004, you may find your position is at risk.

• David Martin is a Canadian government employee and contributor to '101 Damnations: The Humorists' Tour of Personal Hells' (St. Martin's Press, 2002).


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