Vacations are important, and more and more companies are starting to recognize the value in having their workers “unplug” so that they can come back refreshed and, in turn, more productive on the job.
But vacations can be both a blessing and a curse, and lots of people avoid taking them altogether because they’re too worried about what’s going to happen when they’re gone, or worse yet, when they return.
So we’re going to discuss some tactics for helping you get a handle on your work both before and after your vacation so that you can leave feeling confident and come back ready to hit the ground running.
BEFORE YOU LEAVE
Get Your Ducks in a Row
The last thing you want is to be cruising down the Caribbean and receive an angry phone call from your boss about all the things you neglected to do before you left. So make everyone’s life easier by taking the time to get all of your ducks in a row prior to your trip. Tie up any loose ends with clients, resolve outstanding issues, and take care of anything that you might have been putting off so you can return with a clean slate.
Set Up an Out of Office Message
Before hitting the road, make sure you enable an out of office message. You don’t want clients and coworkers thinking that their emails are being ignored. Even if you’ve already informed everyone you were going away, people have busy lives, and your whereabouts are not the first thing on their minds.
Your out of office message serves as a reminder that you’re currently unavailable, works to ease peoples’ minds that you aren’t ignoring them, and is a convenient way to put people in touch with someone else who can assist them until your return. That means no stress on their part, and no disgruntled clients and co-workers to return home to.
Make Sure Your Stand-In Is Up to Speed
Even though your work may not be on your mind when you’re away, your job doesn’t cease to exist because you’re gone. Most likely you’ll have someone covering for you, or at the very least, picking up any slack as needed. And even though it’s that person’s responsibility to keep things running while you’re away, it’s your responsibility to get them up to speed before leaving.
Start by clearly identifying who will be stepping into your shoes and clearly communicating their new responsibilities. Inform them of your progress on any and all projects, including specifics about due dates and what a finished product looks like. This is also the time to let them know about anything out of the ordinary such as a customer waiting for more information on something, a phone call you’ve been waiting for, etc.
While you can’t possibly predict everything that will come up when you’re gone, the more communicative you are up front, the less frequently issues will arise while you’re sunning yourself on the beaches of France or hiking the Rockies.
WHEN YOU RETURN
Give Yourself Time to Acclimate to a Routine
If at all possible, try to schedule your vacation so that you have at least a day back home before diving back into the work routine again. This will give you some extra hours to catch up on any needed sleep (especially if there was a time zone difference), take care of your laundry, and deal with any pressing issues at home before diving back into the workflow.
Go Through Your Inbox
Once back at the office, after showing off your tan and passing out the souvenirs to your coworkers, you’ll want to get down to the main line of business – going through your office inbox. The longer you were out, the more daunting this task can seem, so it’s best to break it up into manageable chunks.
Start by turning off your out of office message, and resist the urge to read your emails in chronological order. You’ll end up wasting a lot of time opening things that don’t require your attention. Instead, sort them by subject or sender, whichever makes the most sense for you. This will help you target the messages that require your immediate attention and recognize those that can be filed away or deleted entirely.
Make a To-Do List (And Stick to it)
One of the biggest mistakes workers can make when they return from a vacation is taking on too many tasks at once. While multi-tasking may seem like the quickest way to catch up on all that was missed, it can actually hurt your productivity and you’ll likely accomplish less.
Instead, create an organized to-do list for yourself, prioritizing the most pertinent items. Then do your best to work on one task at a time so that you don’t overwhelm and confuse yourself.
When little interruptions pop up throughout the day (and trust me they will; it’s your first day back), having that to-do list in front of you will ensure you stay on track so that nothing slips through the cracks.
Do Your Work, But Give Yourself a Break
Just because you’re back from vacation, your boss isn’t expecting you to cram all of the work you missed into one day to make up for lost time.
It also doesn’t mean you should be working through lunch and staying two hours extra. Even if you don’t feel on top of your game right away, a transition period is totally normal. It doesn’t mean you have to kill yourself just to prove something.
Remember, you’re only human and you owe it to yourself to unplug and unwind sometimes. You shouldn’t punish yourself for stepping away from your work every once in awhile. The key is to plan ahead so that you can come back refreshed, renewed, and ready to kick some serious business butt.