Vacation has come and gone, and all I’m left with is sand in my pocketbook, sunburn on my toes … and too many emails to count. (Oh yeah, and priceless family memories that will last a lifetime.)
In the past, returning from a week away would be a time for stress and panic. I have so much to do! Why didn’t I finish that up before my trip? Why did I book that meeting on Monday at 8 a.m.? But this time, reconnecting after a blissfully disconnected week was different.
Why? Because I baby-stepped back into business. And it was easier to do than you might think.
So if you’re about to head out on vacation, or you’re returning from a week away, here are a few simple tips to help you make your transition back to business – and reality – suck a little less:
It can be tempting to ignore the fact that vacation is ending until your last minute of freedom. But waiting to get back to business until it’s time for business is just asking to be hit in the face with a big ball of stress.
Instead, slowly begin thinking about work at the end of your vacation. For example, if you have a long car ride back from paradise (and you’re a passenger, of course!), use that time to catch up on recent tweets from your favorite business-related accounts. You’ll quickly get a sense of the top stories you missed, and find interesting stories that will help you get back on topic in a way that interests you.
Be sure to make note of any thoughts or ideas you have as you read – they may be a good start for a curated blog post, which is a great way to ease back into business blogging.
It’s amazing how much stress can be relieved simply by writing things down – and that’s why it’s so important to come up with an achievable plan of action when you return from vacation.
Note: I said achievable. Which means, focus on what needs to be done first, and let the rest of the avalanche fall where it fits.
This is why I love my Day Designer day planner by Whitney English.
Gah, how dare I, right? Catching up on emails is the last thing you want to do when you’re in a state of vacation euphoria. But hear me out.
When I left for vacation, I wrote the following in my out-of-office message:
I’m currently out enjoying some family summer fun, and will be back in the office on [date]. If this is an emergency, please email me with the word “URGENT” in your email subject. If not, I will respond to all emails when I come back to reality.
Have a great week!
This way, while I was on vacation, I would simply scan my message subjects to see if any were marked URGENT (luckily, none were). Sure, I would have to force myself not to read the other emails, but I stayed strong and shut down my inbox after ensuring disaster was averted.
The night you return from vacation, read your most important emails first. Then, draft your email responses, but don’t send them until your first official work morning (hat tip to Troy from Studio Incognito for this idea!). This way, you won’t start late-night business conversations and get consumed by details when planning your day.
Before I left on vacation, I had visions of the insane productivity that would hit me upon my return. I would come home and work until the wee hours to get things done before my work week began.
Those visions evaporated faster than a margarita on the beach once I came home, however. Instead of feeling productive, I felt nostalgic. I wanted to savor my last hours of family time.
So that’s what I did. I completed steps 1-3 above, and then I wrote down a few super rough notes and ideas for my week’s projects. I felt like I got some good thinking done but I didn’t force myself to refine my writing or get too deep with any specific tasks.
As with #4, I didn’t want to return from paradise and act like I was never there. So once I took a little bit of time to get caught up and comfortable, I spent my evening looking through my vacation photos and talking with my husband and daughters about our favorite moments.
On the night before you go back to work, remember to think about what your break from reality gave you. Remake your favorite drink from that cool beach bar. Watch the videos you captured on that amazing hike. Share your most surprising moments with your friends or family. Change your phone or computer wallpaper to a picture that represents the joyful feeling you had while away. That way, when the inevitable back-to-work stress hits, you’re only a glance away from a mental escape.
Yes, even if you’re not a morning person. Finish out your vacation with a great night’s sleep, and set your coffee to brew at some ungodly hour (mine was 4:40 a.m.).
Knowing I had a fresh pot ready to go, and my day all planned out, gave me the extra boost I needed to get out of bed and start the day. By 7 a.m., I felt like I was right back in the game.
And ready to plan my next vacation.
Do you have any back-to-reality tips to share? We’d love to hear them! Add your comments below, and let’s help each other survive our post-vacation blues.