No matter how much you love your work, how flexible its hours are, how much it allows you to balance work with life, eventually you’ll need to unplug and take a break to wash off the inevitable buildup of stress. On vacation you can relax in a way that a weekend simply doesn’t allow you to.
But all good things come to an end. It’s likely you’ll be dreading work toward the end of your vacation. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Here’s what to do before, during and after you vacation to get yourself back in the saddle as quickly and stress free as possible.
Before You Leave
Set up an Out-of-the-Office Message
This one is obvious but has to be mentioned. No matter if you plan to check messages or ignore them while you’re gone, this at least lets your co-workers and clients know to expect less or no communication. An auto-responder message will immediately respond to any emails you’ve received with your message letting everyone know that you are on vacation and when they can expect to hear back from you.
Create a List of Your Ongoing Projects
While it’s fresh in your mind, make a list of what you have to prioritize when you return. It’s easier than trying to remember it later, and your future self will thank you for getting organized in advance.
For each project, detail it’s status, and note specifically where you are going to start when you return. Retracing your steps wastes time and causes unnecessary frustration.
Hand Over Some Work That Can’t Wait
You could need some help to keep work moving while you’re gone. Ongoing work projects or active clients may need help during your absence.
You may want to have someone send out emails, blog posts, and social media posts while you’re gone. Or consider scheduling these yourself before you leave.
Lastly, give your coworkers any outstanding deadlines. Make sure to leave clear instructions if you want to avoid any calls asking for help.
Clean up at Home and the Office
Any good vibes from a vacation can be ruined quickly when you return to a messy home. Do the dishes, de-clutter the rooms, and take out the trash.
The same thinking applies to your desk or office. De-clutter the desk, organizing or throwing away the mail. Go through any stray papers and file or get rid of them.
Clean up your email. Delete old messages and reply to those that can’t wait for your return.
It’s hard to think about everyday chores when you’re planning a vacation, but you’ll feel more at ease if you return to a clean home and workplace.
Vacations have the incredible ability to add a fresh perspective to aspects of your work. You might come back from vacation and realize that things you were doing a particular way previously could be done better another way. You may have a great idea for a new program or product. Be prepared to have a small journal or capture these fresh ideas on your phone. If a vacation gives you ideas to make you more productive or serve people better, don’t let them slide by.
Add a Buffer Day
Don’t take a trip to the other side of the world and fly a red eye back the day you’re supposed to start working. Unless it’s a stay-at-home vacay, place at least one day between when you come back from your trip and when you have to start work.
This isn’t just to deal with some terrible jet lag. It can be a day of the weekend or an extra vacation day, but schedule a break between vacation and work
Some people call it a “vacation after the vacation,” but it’s really a chance to get back to your normal routine with the least amount of stress. There’s more to catch-up on than work when you return. Laundry, grocery shopping even sleep is necessary before jumping back into a normal work week.
Regain a Sense of Control
This means going through your emails, documents, news, and other messages to understand what’s been going on.
Schedule time dedicated solely to replying to emails in advance. If you schedule this before you leave the office, you won’t be scrambling the first day back trying to balance everything you need to do.
While going through your emails you will inevitably come across things that need to get added to your to-do list. Once you’ve captured them, prioritize those tasks on another list. These two lists alone will help tame the chaos and give you a good ideas what you need to do first.
Avoid All Meetings Except This One
If you have the misfortune of working for a company that likes meetings where an email or Slack message could do, resist all attempts to schedule meetings from the moment you’re back.
On your first day back, schedule a meeting with your assistant, business partner, key team member, or an accountability buddy to go over new priorities that have popped up, set your goals for the week, and to create a plan for how you’re going to get it done.
Don’t Be Too Hard on Yourself
Take it easy at first. You’re allowed to pick up steam; few people will expect you to be fully productive from the second you start working. Write out the two lists mentioned above and going down the priority list, complete each task one by one. Avoid the temptation to multitask. Eventually, you’ll feel as if you’re back in the swing of things. Just don’t think you need to do everything immediately.
Plan Your Next Vacation
One way to alleviate the post-vacation blues is to plan your next vacation. It could be months away, but work is much easier when you’ve got something to look forward to. It doesn’t need to be a long vacation. It could just be an activity or long weekend. Plan something you’re excited about!
Wrapping It Up
What you do before, during and after your vacation all have a huge impact on your stress levels when you return. Implement these steps and the benefits of your vacation will linger longer!