Getting overwhelmed immediately after vacation defeats its purpose.
I’m sitting in an airport waiting to board a plane home, wrapping up an epic vacation where I lost myself in fun for two weeks and feel like I forgot everything I know. Alas, in a few days, I must return to reality and figure out how to get into professional mode. Here’s my plan for coping with work after a great vacation.
Step 1: Take a great vacation. I know, I already did this, but it’s an essential step. With vacation time so limited, we must make the most of it. You can visit loved ones, explore new places, pursue recreation or adventure, indulge in rest and relaxation, or ideally, do all of the above. If finances limit your travels or put you into “staycation” status, you can still rest, get away from home for daily excursions, and check out new (local) places or activities. Most importantly, for a vacation to be satisfying, it is essential to disconnect from work as much as possible. Technically, I’m breaking this rule, since I’m writing this on my own time. However, having been thoroughly aloof for 14 days (not to mention bored to tears on this flight), I’m finding writing a helpful activity.
Step 2: Plan at least one full day at home to recover. In other words, if you work a Monday – Friday schedule, come home Saturday. If you travel across multiple time zones or climb the Himalayas, consider adding an extra day or two to recover from jet lag and physical exertion. I will have to try this idea next year.
Step 3: Before your vacation, buy yourself something to be delivered while you are away. For my travels, I ordered three audio books from Amazon.com, but none arrived in time. Thanks to slow delivery, I have goodies waiting for me at home that I can’t wait to tear open. To avoid over-spending, you can divert some vacation shopping funds for your post-trip gift to yourself.
Step 4: Ease back to work. Getting overwhelmed immediately after vacation defeats its purpose. If you have control of your schedule, plan a lighter load. If you don’t, try persuading your boss or office manager to go easy on you. Bribery with gifts like coffee, t-shirts, or tasteful souvenirs works well. I’m just realizing I neglected to do this—oops. If you have no control over scheduling, consider returning 2-3 days before your first shift.
Step 5: Find a time to share your vacation highlights with co-workers. Most people enjoy hearing interesting stories, learning about new places or customs, and seeing a slideshow. This can help you re-connect with colleagues and process the ending of your vacation in a healthy way. When the slideshow ends, you know it’s work time.
Step 6: Focus on the positive parts of your job. You can do this. Sustain that upbeat vacation vibe as long as possible. If there is literally nothing positive about your job, you can still find solace in just being employed—when so many are not—until you find something better.
Well, the captain has turned on the fasten seat belt sign, and my plane is approaching LAX. I have Steps 1-3 under my belt, and come Monday, I will rely on Steps 4-6 to get me back on my game. After your next trip, try these steps, and let me know how they work for you.