Taking a long trip can be one of the best experiences. But returning to work after a long vacation? Not quite as nice.
For my honeymoon, I took three full weeks off of work. Getting back into the swing of things was rough, but using a few different tactics, I was able to make the transition a little bit easier.
Plan ahead before you leave.
The process has to begin before you leave for your trip. Make everything easier for yourself (and your manager!) by getting ahead on work.
Before I left, I scheduled almost all of the social media posts and emails that were supposed to go out during my time off. I had to really hustle in those weeks leading up to it, but when I sat down with my boss the week before I left, she was so relieved that she didn’t have to do any of it. I told her how to cancel things in case of emergency, but other than that, she didn’t have to take on any extra work.
You should also try to plan ahead for your first week back. Your head is going to be spinning a bit (especially if you’re dealing with an 18-hour time difference), so pre-schedule as many things as possible. I had social media already set to go, and before I left I made sure my calendar was already planned out for my first week back.
Give yourself a day or two before you have to go back to work.
When you’ve taken a long vacation, it can be a shock to the system if you don’t have any sort of buffer between your trip and your work week. Don’t try to go right back to work the day you return! Give yourself a day or two to readjust.
Sean and I got back from our honeymoon on Thursday evening. This meant we only had to take one vacation day, but had three days off between our plane rides and the work week. It was really helpful being able to adjust (at least a little bit) to our regular time zone before getting back to work.
Check in with your manager first thing.
This was a strategy my manager and I stumbled upon after she got back to work after a long vacation. Rather than going through her email to try to figure out what she missed, she scheduled calls with all of her direct reports so they could fill her in.
Before I left, I put a 30-minute meeting with my manager on the calendar for first thing the Monday morning I was set to return. That way she could fill me in on anything I missed, and I could tackle my email more methodically.
Battle your email in chunks.
On that note, don’t sit down and try to go through all of your emails at once. You’ll be fried before you even get to lunch hour! Once you’ve checked in with your manager, tackle anything urgent that needs to be done right away. Then, utilize the search feature of your inbox to battle your seemingly never-ending inbox in chunks.
First, search for anything marked as high priority. Hopefully you already know about these things thanks to your meeting with your boss, but if not, tackle those urgent issues first.
Depending on how many emails you had, take a short break (maybe re-up your coffee if you need a little boost!) and tackle one of your day-to-day job duties. Whether that’s creating and scheduling an email, filing paperwork for a new employee, or making a few sales calls, try to get back into the swing of your day-to-day tasks.
Once you’ve cranked out one or two tasks, head back to your email. Clean it up a little bit by searching for items that don’t need your attention at all. Things like newsletters, notifications, etc. can all be deleted to make your inbox less intimidating.
I get eight emails every morning from Salesforce Marketing Cloud, letting me know that our daily automations have successfully been sent out. Once I get back to work after a long vacation, I search for the subject line all of these notification emails use and batch-delete them. After my honeymoon, that was 176 emails I got to delete in one big chunk. Talk about a confidence boost!
Once you’ve cleaned your inbox out a bit, do one or two more day-to-day tasks, then start tackling emails in reverse chronological order. I always like to start with the most recent emails, because I can tell if someone else on an email chain has already answered the question. You don’t want to send a response and then realize someone else had already said the exact same thing!
And keep in mind, because you got an overview from your manager and started with the high-priority items, it’s totally okay if this process takes you two or three days! Just make sure to include in your Out of Office auto-responder that you’ll get back to them within two or three days of your return.
Have something to look forward to.
After something as exciting as vacation, it can be hard to get back to the monotonous life of a 9-5 job. To combat this, schedule something to look forward to!
Whether you’ve got a professional development class you’re excited to dive into, or there’s a fun side project you’re looking forward to tackling, save it for the week you return to work after a long vacation. This will make it a lot easier to get out of bed in the morning and make your way to the office.
Rest when you need to, even if it messes up your sleep schedule.
When we went to New Zealand, our bodies were functioning on an 18-hour time difference. That made adjusting to our home time zone really difficult. We kept trying to force it, but every time we’d go to sleep at 9pm, we’d still find ourselves waking up at 2am, unable to get back to sleep. Then, by the afternoon, we’d be so groggy but would force ourselves to stay up so we’d be more tired once 9pm came around.
Guess what? It didn’t work. It just made us miserable. It ended up taking almost two weeks to get used to the Eastern Time Zone again, and in the meantime, we were miserable because we were refusing to let our bodies rest.
Even if it takes you longer to get over your jetlag, sleep when you need to. Your body will hate you if you’re trying to run on no sleep, and your work will suffer. Even if you can’t take a nap in the middle of the work day and make up that time later (flexible scheduling is the best!), take naps as you need them and let your body recuperate.
Take care of your body.
And finally, on a similar note, take care of your body. Eat healthy food, exercise if you have the energy, shower, and practice good hygiene. Taking care of yourself will make you feel more human, and therefore more ready to take on the day.
I don’t recommend trying to switch up your diet right after a long vacation. Sean and I tried this after our honeymoon, and man was it terrible. Your body is already hella confused, so don’t give it any more reason to be.
Coming back to work after a long vacation can be rough, but it doesn’t have to be. Even just adopting one of these tactics is sure to help you succeed!
Now go and enjoy your vacation!