no vacations for project managers: very bad idea!

It seems like there's no right time for the project manager to go on vacations, but vacations are not optional: they are very necessary.

why do PMs hesitate to go on vacations?

  1. Everything in the project is, at the end of the day, the project manager’s responsibility.
  2. It is hard for the PM to let go, his project IS his life!
  3. Trust and delegation are difficult to build and exercise.
  4. Not disconnecting is made easier with current technologies.

vacations are not only necessary, they are mandatory

As PMs often run at 150% everyday for extended periods of time, their motivation and performance can start to dim. Not quite what we would call a “burn out” but a significant stress level that impacts health, behaviors and efficiency.

good reasons to go on vacations

  • Increase performance and motivation
  • Reduce stress level
  • Better problem solving
  • Increased tolerance to negative events
  • More innovative as the brain relaxes/has relaxed
  • Develop other project team members, giving them more responsibility, autonomy, exposure to new tasks
  • Spend quality time with loved ones

Now that we’re convinced we need vacations...

how to leave the project with a peaceful mind?

Planning and choosing the appropriate timing. Indeed, departing at a time when major milestones, critical or final deliverables or customer visits are to take place will not help you to relax. So, proactively plan your vacations and days off. Apply this same approach to all project team members, eventually setting up minimum vacation notification delays, black out periods (if required), preparation time pre-vacations…

Prepare and appoint your backup while you're gone. Having a project champion while you’re gone is something you cannot improvise. It requires efforts and planning to bring the person (or persons if you distribute tasks amongst several). However, you will also need to inform everyone that this proxy has full authority to act in your absence. Also, this person will know how to reach you if needed, and is and will be the only one allowed to do so.

Manage the expectations of the projects key stakeholders by letting them know when you’re off and who they should turn to in your absence.

Ready, set, GO !

We’ll see next month how to maximize benefits of this break upon your return.


Michel Operto

I've been leading IT projects for more than 20 years at telecom and computer manufacturers: Thomson Sintra, Digital Equipment, NCR, Nortel Networks, Orange Business. My passion is Project Management and leadership and I run a blog on the PM best practices at