Vacation, all I ever wanted.. Vacation, time to get away. – The Go-Go’s, Vacation
It is no secret that taking time away from work is important. Whether going on vacation to spend time with family and friends or simply taking time to unwind, using your vacation time has multiple benefits for both your personal life and your professional life. Taking vacation decreases burn-out and encourages creativity, allowing you to return to work refreshed and productive.
While the benefits of taking time away from the office are clear, it is easy to dread the inevitable return to the office. The mere thought of accumulated emails is enough to cause anxiety before you even leave for your trip. The solution? Anticipate any obstacles to a stress-free vacation as it relates to work and plan ahead. Tackling the “return to work stress” before your trip will make your return much smoother and allow you to enjoy your time away more. For some ideas on ensuring a smooth return to the office, check out the tips below.
Before Your Trip…
Reflect On What You Need From This Vacation
Do you need a complete work reprieve, including email? Or might you do some light reading to find some inspiration in your work? Maybe you plan on checking email every few days to feel more prepared upon your return to the office. Reflect on what you need so that you can be intentional about your time away.
Decide how much you plan to unplug, and make a plan for successful implementation. Whether you decide to avoid email all together, or designate certain days to check email, be intentional.
If you are intent on avoiding email all together, consider removing your work email from your phone. While this may be difficult, it will save you from any temptation. If you decide to keep your email accessible on your phone, remove email notifications so that you have control on when you decide to engage (or not engage) with email.
If you want to limit email but check-in once in a while, decide your level of engagement with work. Are you checking email to stay in the loop so that there are not any surprises upon your return, or do you want to slowly tackle responses so that you have less on your plate when you get back? What is your plan of action if you are made aware of an issue that needs resolution? Consider delegating certain tasks to colleagues so that you can truly limit time spent working or resolving issues while away.
Speaking of colleagues, be clear on communication expectations. What constitutes a vacation interruption? Do you prefer a call or text in those cases? Do you want to be CC’ed on all emails or kept out of the loop until you return?
If one of your intentions is to get your creative juices flowing, save articles that you find interesting or research books that may help you re-engage professionally. Consider keeping a journal as you get new ideas.
During Your Trip…
You already planned ahead – now you just have to implement! Make the most of your time away and live in the moment. Be flexible with yourself. Do what feels right based on what your mind and your body needs. If you decided on Wednesday as a day to check email but you need a massage, go for the massage. That is what vacation is for!
When You Return…
Give yourself time to wade back in. Block your calendar for the first day or two if possible. If blocking a full day is out of the question, be sure to designate chunks of time in the morning to get acclimated with your tasks and identify a game plan. This will allow you to tackle your email and get up to speed on what you missed while away. Consider scheduling check-in time with important constituents to avoid any breakdowns in communication.
By setting intentions, you can set yourself up for success and avoid the ever-dreaded return to post-vacation reality. Whatever you decide…email or no email, reading for work or reading for pleasure, stay true to what you need. Remember, a vacation is meant to help you clear your head and remind you of what is important. Now, schedule that time off and enjoy yourself!