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5 Ways to Productively Return from Vacation

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Productive vs. Not Productive

By: Shane Bender

For those of you who are fans of Seinfeld, there is an episode where George Constanza has decided that he is going to do the opposite of what he would normally do. At this time he is single, unemployed, and lives with his parents. At the end of the episode, he has an attractive girlfriend and a job with the New York Yankees because he decided to do the opposite.

This week I returned from a family vacation of 8 days to complete chaos. Don’t get me wrong, I think we should all take vacations. I wrote about this last week in a blog post called “Taking a Break“.  I just did not come back very well prepared to handle the work week. I am writing this to say that I should have done virtually the opposite of what I did.

After learning from my mistakes and doing some research, here are 5 ways to be more productive upon your return from vacation.

1. Prepare Before You Leave

One thing I did wrong was to schedule meetings the day I came back from vacation. Bad idea. I scheduled one meeting on the drive home. What was I thinking? The HBR article “Ease the Pain of Returning To Work After Time Off” mentions not scheduling meetings right when you return.

It is best to go through the most time-sensitive items on your task list before leaving, and having a good  plan to accomplish those before leaving. Make sure you have someone covering for you.

2. Schedule a Physical Recovery Day

I came back on a Tuesday and was back to work on Wednesday. Don’t ever do this. I remember that as a kid we always came back from vacation on a Saturday, and my parents recovered physically on Sunday. If you are traveling with a family, I highly recommend this. I typically get more sleep when I am on vacation, but the travel day home can be tiring. You don’t want to come back tired because it’s possible that the whole reason you needed to get away in the first place was to rejuvenate and come back feeling fresh.

I have heard people say they need a vacation from their vacation. If this is the case, then I would suggest reassessing your vacation next time.

3. Don’t Blame Vacation. Accept Responsibility

I caught myself blaming vacation for being behind, late, or not prepared this week. I am sure most people understand, but this is just an indication of disorganization and lack of planning. We must all accept responsibility. Once again, if we properly plan our vacation, schedule our return, and organize our priorities, we will be more successful and will not have to spend our time apologizing or feeling bad for taking a vacation in the first place.

4. Schedule Time to Get Up To Speed

After your physical recovery day, it is best to schedule the time to plan your week, clean up email, and reassess your task list. In the HR article, “The Right Way to Come Back From Vacation”, Peter Bregman underscores the importance of taking the time to mentally prepare coming back by advising that we need to use this time to remind ourselves who we are at our very best, to review our goals for the year, and to determine what we want to accomplish the day we return.

One idea is to tell everyone you will be available one day later so the first day back at work is not full of interruptions. Maybe even keep your “out of office” on for one extra day. If you have the privilege of working from home, consider doing that. Interruptions and having to tell everyone all the adventures of your vacation can be time-consuming and distracting. It is fun to do this, but it will be less stressful when you are caught up.

5. Get Back into Your Positive Routines

Consistency is important in accomplishing goals. Quiet Time, planning your day and week, journaling, exercising, eating right and sleeping 7-8 hours a night are good routines. For some reason when we come back from vacation, some of these good habits can get replaced. Your first day back from vacation can set the tone for what you start doing regularly going forward.

We all need to take the time to rejuvenate and take time away from work and home. By preparing more before you leave, scheduling your return, accepting responsibility, and making a conscientious effort to get back into some positive daily habits, we can come back from vacation with more success, energy, and focus.

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