You just got back from a well-deserved summer vacation feeling relaxed, rejuvenated, and reinspired. Until you’re greeted by an overflowing email inbox. Don’t let the post-vacation blues get the best of you (or convince you not to take a vacation at all). Trust that you prepared for your trip appropriately and that you can manage your workload upon return.
Plus, getting back into the swing of work doesn’t have to be the bane of your existence. You can set yourself up to thrive, not just survive, during your first week back from vacation.
Successfully transition back to work using our best practices:
1. Schedule buffer time.
Consider taking an extra day or two off to relax and reorganize before starting work. This will give you time to settle back in – catch up on sleep, unpack your suitcase, hit the grocery store, and do the laundry. You’ll feel more at ease knowing that your personal life is in order when you return to work.
The morning of your first day back, spend time planning out your day and week. If possible, don’t schedule meetings on your first day back. Use this uninterrupted time to catch up on emails and create a to-do list so you can tackle anything that piled up in your absence first. Time blocking your calendar will help you focus on one task at a time. Remember to schedule in breaks throughout the day, too—and stick to them.
2. Check in with your team.
Schedule a debrief meeting during your first week back to catch up with your team members. This provides everyone with an opportunity to fill you in on what you missed during your absence, which will help you prioritize your workload. It also gives you a chance to make conversation around non-work topics, which is essential in a hybrid work environment.
3. Prioritize your to-do list.
You’ll likely encounter many tasks that require your attention when you return to work. It’s easy to assume you can, and should, tackle it all – even if that means working after hours. But don’t let guilt drive you to work to the point of undue stress: it will only decrease your productivity, and cancels out all of the restorative power of your recent time off!
Instead, use the Eisenhower Matrix , a great tool for decision-making and time management, to help you distinguish between important and urgent tasks. Prioritizing your to-do list this way will allow you to put your time and effort towards items that matter most. You might also consider selecting three top priorities each day. Break each task down into smaller ones until you’ve completed them all. Then, move down your master list to tackle the next most important tasks.
4. Maximize your productivity.
After compiling your master to-do list and prioritizing the top three most important tasks for each day, you might still feel anxious. So much to accomplish and so little time. Rest assured it doesn’t have to be as overwhelming as it may look. By implementing a few productivity strategies to maximize your time, you’ll be checking off tasks off your list in no time.
Start by identifying when you operate at your peak energy levels. Do you feel more energized in the morning, afternoon, or evening? Use your natural rhythm to your advantage. Tackle your most complex tasks during your “golden hours” and leave more mundane tasks for when your energy dips.
Practice batching your projects by time blocking your calendar and then focus on a single task. Multitasking does not work. It causes “context shifting,” which increases errors and slows us down since our brains can only perform one executive function at a time. Instead, learn to monotask. To set yourself up for success, remember to remove distractions – sign out of your email, put your phone away and on silent, and resist the urge to check social media. Then, try using a tool like the Pomodoro Technique to work in manageable intervals to maximize focus and productivity.
5. Be realistic and kind to yourself.
If your re-entry to work is bumpier than anticipated, don’t despair: Your company didn’t collapse while you were away. There is no need to burn yourself out. Set realistic expectations for your return and give yourself grace as you reintegrate to daily work life. If it’s feasible, you could also ask for an extension on certain tasks.
Remember to take care of yourself upon your return to work. Move your body, eat well, and engage in hobbies or activities that bring you joy. Don’t sacrifice wellbeing for extra time to work. Engaging in physical, mental, and emotional self-care actually boosts productivity and lowers stress – so don’t skimp on it! Isn’t that why you took the vacation in the first place?
Get out there and explore the world (or discover a cool new spot in your town) and don’t let the fear of what awaits you in your inbox drag you down. With a little planning and these tips at the ready, you can enjoy your time away and return to the job more productive than ever!