Dear Lifehacker, I’m about to take a much-needed holiday, 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 holiday from my return-from-holidays?
Sincerely, 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 holidays 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 burnt 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 holiday 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 holiday 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. 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 holidays 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. 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. When you get back from a long, relaxing holiday, the last thing you’ll want to do, for example, is clean up a house in disarray. You can make coming back from holidays a little easier on yourself with a few simple tips:
- Clean up your house before you leave. Take out the rubbish, change your sheets, vacuum your floors, tidy up the bathroom — you know the drill. When you get back home after a long holiday, you’ll be happier if 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 will 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 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 holiday, whether it’s around the corner or across the globe, is start working as soon as you walk through the door. You’ll probably be exhausted but happy to have had time off — 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 holiday and really enjoy it. You’ve set the stage, so you know that returning can be easy and you won’t have a stack of work to do as soon as you get back just to make yourself at home. Whether you disconnect completely when you’re on holiday or don’t is up to you, but we’re big proponents of disconnecting from your work at least as much as possible. Your holiday 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
Don’t get overwhelmed when you return from time away — in fact, you might do yourself a favour 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 holiday was. Maybe you can hang up a photo from your time away 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 centre where you’ll see it. Every now and again, look at it and meditate on how much better you feel now. 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 day-to-day life.
You Can’t Control Everything, So Don’t Worry Too Much
Think about returning from holidays 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 holiday 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 holiday to a tragedy or some big issue that needs your immediate attention. That’s OK — remember that your company, your classmates and 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!
PS Do you have any other suggestions for Burnt Out? How do you make coming back to school or work from holidays easier to handle? Share your tips in the comments below.
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