Relaxing, sleeping in, enjoying quality time with family and friends or maybe even soaking up the sun in a warmer climate — then, boom — it’s back to work. It’s no wonder workers suffer the post-vacation blues. However, there are ways to transition from “happy holidays” or beachfront to work desk easier.
Clean up for stronger self-motivation after vacation
A little work management before vacation helps fight off those post-vacation blues. As much as possible, tie up open projects before leaving. Returning to a clear desk is more pleasant and less stressful. This is also a good time to do a little extra organizing. Go through drawers, desk trays, and other workspace areas and throw things away. Be ruthless and conquer those pack-rat temptations. Place the things used most often in the closest and most accessible drawers.
Prepare an auto-reply message to let clients and others know when you will return and who they should contact for help before then. Give that return date as one or two days after the actual one to allow for catch-up time.
While holiday shopping or shopping for souvenirs, think ahead to going back to work. Pick up a unique tray or dish to hold desk knick-knacks like loose paper clips. Collect a few shopping bags that call the vacation to mind. Mount them on a bulletin board to make an attractive wall organizer to supplement those plain wall trays.
Plan for coming back to work after vacation
A desk calendar is a useful tool in beating post-vacation blues. Avoid scheduling any meetings or new projects for the first couple of days back to work. This allows for catching up and sorting through piles of mail and messages without interruption, and it allows for a “warm-up” period for a full schedule. Mark those days off on the calendar as a reminder to leave them open. Leave the out-of-office phone and email messages in place for those days as well.
Employ time management tricks to ease the transition
Consider returning home an extra day before needing to be back in the office. Use that time to take care of the laundry, restock groceries, and run other errands, while still leaving relaxation time. While sorting and washing clothes, plan that first-day-back outfit and set it aside. At the grocery store, pick up a special treat and prepare that brown-bag lunch the night before the first day back.
Head into the office early on the first day back. Getting into the office before the rest of the staff leaves the chance to ease into things a little more slowly and to have a few quiet minutes to plan the day before needing to answer everyone’s questions. Leave the office on time, no matter how strong the temptation is to stay late to catch up.
Bring the vacation or time off back to the office
Extend that fabulous time off by using vacation photographs or holiday snapshots as backgrounds for computers, phones, and tablets. Place a few small souvenirs or holiday gift around on your desk, and continue something started during the break, whether it’s having coffee or drinks with friends, listening to a new music genre, or taking a walk at lunchtime. This is also a good time to start new habits like creating a new filing system or taking stretch and mental health breaks.
Hold on to the excitement of the trip by starting right away on planning your next vacation or time off. Block out tentative dates in a daily planner and make a list of possible destinations or pencil in a “staycation.” Print pictures of the top possibilities and post them where they are easy to see.
Use work management strategies to keep the transition easy
Having a plan makes the return to the office smoother and less stressful. Plan to deal with the piles of mail, memos, and other messages left on your desk first. Clearing away the mess leaves a more relaxed atmosphere.
Next, grab a notepad and make a prioritized to-do list. Boost that self-motivation level by adding “make a to-do list” the first item on the plan and then marking it as done right away. Next, choose one task to complete that day, and make it the first focus of the day. Because success breeds success, accomplishing those two things to start the day provides the encouragement and confidence needed to tackle the rest.
Deal with emails efficiently
Lauren Young, a Reuters journalist, advocates declaring “email bankruptcy.” In her out-of-office messages, she warns correspondents she will delete all email messages she gets while she is out of the office. She advises contacts to email on or after her return date to be sure she sees the message, and she provides the name and email address of an emergency contact person who fills in while she is away.
If that idea is too scary, consider scanning the subject lines before doing the bulk delete. If email bankruptcy isn’t an option in your office, there is a way to handle those massive numbers of email without drowning under them. Sort the messages by subject and sender rather than by date received. This makes deleting junk mail easier. Additionally, the what and who of the messages are the important points; the when rarely matters. With these tips, getting back to work without succumbing to the post-vacation blues should be a breeze.