I'm about to take a much-needed vacation, and while planning my trip is a blast, planning for my return is always the hard part. I'll be mostly disconnected, and don't like the idea of checking in just to make getting back to work and life easier when I return from my time away. Do you have any tips on how to quickly re-integrate with my day to day activities when I get home without immediately feeling like I need to take a vacation from my return-from-vacation?
Burnt Out on Burnout
Dear Burnt Out,
That's a good question! A lot of us have the same problem, and it's one of those insidious facts of work life that actually keep some of us from taking much-needed vacations in the first place. There are definitely some ways you can ease back in to the normal routine of work and life while still retaining the benefits you get from being away from it all long enough to recharge your batteries. You can also use the opportunity as a fresh start to try and cement habits that'll keep you from getting too burned out in the first place. Here's what we mean.
Prepare Before You leave
The old adage is that the last few days before a vacation are often the busiest. They don't have to be, but proper preparation is key to making sure it's easy to get back into the mix when you get back from your vacation without wishing you never left in the first place. Here's how:
- Delegate. Make sure you give your work away. Whether it's your boss, your colleagues, or someone else, make sure that you work with your manager and your team to make sure that your regular responsibilities are covered while you're away, and little things that anyone can do don't just pile up while you're away. If someone else can do it, make sure someone else is doing it, so you don't have to play catch up while you're gone—and your clients or customers don't feel slighted because you took a few days off.
- Get the word out. Whether it's an out-of-office notification in your email client, calendar appointment to the people you work with most often, an email, or a face-to-face conversation, let everyone know you'll be gone. You may even consider setting a calendar appointment with a reminder 48 hours before you actually leave, or an out of office during the last week before your vacation that you'll be gone the following week so everyone knows you'll be out in advance. Don't give anyone the opportunity to say "Oh, I didn't know you'd be gone!"
- Clean Out That Inbox. Whether you have to declare inbox bankruptcy to get it cleaned out, it'll help you to know that the only email waiting for you in your mailbox are messages you missed while you were out of the office. If you have a to-do app or some kind of tool where work is assigned to you, make sure you clean it out as much as possible before you go as well.
- Shift the responsibility to follow-up. Whether you put it in your out-of-office message, voicemail greeting, or just tell everyone, let them know that you'll be gone for a while, and if the issue is important, ask them to follow up with you when you're back at the office, on whichever day it is. Of course, that doesn't totally absolve you of the need to follow up with people when you get back, but it does remind your colleagues to come see you when you're back in the office instead of waiting around for you to answer an email that could be weeks old.
Make Your Home Easy to Return To
In addition to preparing your professional life and making sure everyone knows you're headed out and will follow up when you get back, take some time to do the same thing for your personal life, around your home or apartment. When you get back from a long, relaxing vacation, the last thing you'll want to do, for example, is clean up a house in disarray. You can make coming back from vacation a little easier on yourself with a few simple tips:
- Clean up your house before you leave. Take out the trash, change your sheets, vacuum your floors, tidy up the bathroom—you know the drill. When you get back home after a long vacation, you'll be happy to be home, but you'll be happier if your home is clean and tidy, you have a nice freshly made bed to fall asleep in after a long trip home, and most importantly you don't have a long to-do list of chores around the house to do. If you take care of that stuff before you leave, it'll make unpacking and settling back in that much easier.
- Lay out a set of fresh clothes for your morning back. If you're getting back on the day before you go back to work, lay out of your work clothes before you even leave so you don't have to think about it on your first morning back. If you get back a few days before, lay out your around-the-house clothes—anything to make it easier for you to relax a bit and to make your first morning back painless.
Ultimately, do what you can to make getting home and back into the swing of things as easy as possible before you leave. The last thing you'll want to do when you get home after a vacation, whether it's around the corner or across the globe, is start working as soon as you walk through the door. You'll likely be exhausted but happy to have had your vacation—don't make coming home more difficult than it already is.
Disconnect and Stay Disconnected
Once you've done all of that preparation, go take your vacation and really enjoy it. You've set the stage so you know that returning can be easy and you won't have a ton of work to do as soon as you get back just to make yourself at home. Whether you disconnect completely when you're on vacation or don't is up to you, but we're big proponents of disconnecting from your work at least as much as possible. Your vacation is just that—you won't get the full benefits of being away to recharge your batteries if you're half-working and spending time cleaning out your inbox while you're supposed to be relaxing.
Come Back Recharged and Refreshed
We've discussed some great ways to make your first days back easier to deal with, like getting started early, eating a good breakfast, and tackling your email and other responsibilities by importance and not by when they came in. Don't get overwhelmed when you return from time away—in fact, you might do yourself a favor and ignore your inbox entirely and make the rounds talking to the people you work most closely with on your first day back at the office—that way you don't waste time following up on emails or other requests that have been resolved while you were away.
You might also consider declaring inbox bankruptcy upon your return. Shoot an email to your team to let them know you're back and that if there's anything important they need you for, invite them to catch up with you. Many of us don't have the luxury of just deleting everything in our inboxes and starting over, but you can safely make assumptions about what needs follow-up and what doesn't. Take it easy, and try to make your first day back at work or school as hassle-free as possible. You don't have to take care of everything on your first day back.
Finally, take some time to relax and remember how great your vacation was. Maybe you can hang up a photo from your vacation, or bring in a memento of your trip—something to help you stay grounded and reminded that you took some great time away from work or school and had a chance to recharge. Put it front and center where you'll see it. Every now and again, look at it and meditate on how much better you feel now or having taken that time off. After all, you just recharged your batteries—it doesn't make sense to drain them again in your first day or week back to your dayt-to-day life.
You Can't Control Everything, So Don't Worry Too Much
If you're looking for some more tips to make coming back from vacation easy, check out some suggestions from our readers, like coming back in the middle of a workweek instead of the beginning, and taking off a few hours early for the first couple of days you're back so you're not overwhelmed. We're also big fans of using a vacation as a logical place to start new positive habits, like trying to get out of the office at a reasonable hour every day, and scheduling your breaks and relaxation time to make sure you get them.
Finally, keep in mind that you can't control everything. The unexpected may happen, you may get back from your vacation to a tragedy or some big issue that needs your immediate attention, or something you trusted would go well without you went poorly. That's okay—remember that your company, your classmates, your colleagues will all survive just fine without you—you need to take care of yourself. Put yourself first and try to stay positive: a good attitude goes a long way!