How To Come Back To Work After A Vacation (Without Losing Your Sanity)

If you’re feeling a premonition to switch from vacation mode back to “work mode,” you’re not alone. When you’re anticipating what’s in store for you on Monday morning—a mountain of email, client issues, an ego clash between team members—you might be thinking, “Why did I leave in the first place?” But you can get back to work with a more relaxed attitude and maintain a sense of well-being instead of falling back into the stress cycle. Here are five ideas to help you do that.

Do not answer emails when you are absent.

After returning from vacation or a long weekend, you might be tempted to dip your toe back into work before jumping in at the deep end. It can seem like you’re “just” checking in an email on Sunday evening: Before you know it, you’re back in “work mode.” Try this: Maintain a rule of not checking email until Monday morning, when you’re fully prepared to resolve any issues that arise. When you practice not answering emails on weekends, you’re modeling healthy boundaries and work-life balance for your team members. From experience with clients, I have found that blurred boundaries lead to burnout and a lack of work. The emails can wait.

No meetings on the first day back.

You may be tempted to reschedule meetings on the first day, but try to take it easy on the day. Check email first to stay up to date. Then prioritize what you want to address. You can’t address everything at once! What one or two items would you like a status update on? Plan meetings for the next day. Save the first day for reflection as you decide where to prioritize your attention.

Keep delegating.

Resist the urge to jump back in and take on the projects you’ve delegated; allow others to continue their work. By delegating the work, you have empowered your team members. Taking the work back on yourself will confuse and frustrate your team members (and delay work). Vacations offer the perfect opportunity to streamline your delegation process. Don’t mess with a good thing when you get back.

Understand that things will be messy.

Take a deep breath: Realize that you’ll likely return to work that feels “messy.” Accept this and don’t fight the inevitable. Instead, try to stay in the positive headspace your vacation (hopefully) created. Don’t stay too long on the first day: do your highest priority work and then give up. Try to eat dinner and go to bed early. Remember; The more rested you are – the better your general well being – the more effective you will be.

Put your wellbeing first.

Think of yourself first. Just because you’ve been on vacation doesn’t mean you have to cancel your weekly pickleball match or a stand-up dinner with friends. Make time for the activities that make you happy. If you allow non-work activities, you can think creatively and avoid burnout: You can do your best for longer.

You don’t have to give in to the premonition you feel on a Sunday night after a great vacation. Take your time and enjoy everything you gained from your time off. Email, work and clients will be there Monday morning.

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