With summer pretty much here, many of us are sitting in our offices, looking out the windows (if we're fortunate enough to have one) and daydreaming about our summer vacations. When we're brought back to earth by the jarring sound of our phones, or the email alert on our computers, we turn our focus back to work, and wonder how we're going to get everything done in the day. If we can barely finish our tasks in a day, how the heck can we find time to go away for 1 week or more and manage all the work that will be waiting for us when we come back?
When I was working in corporate America, there were times when I wished I had not gone away. I remember a particularly much needed vacation I had in Mexico that felt so good, but within 2 hours of arriving back in my office, I wanted to go away again. I was inundated with overdue work as well as new work, and the relaxing attitude I had from my vacation ran away screaming, just like I wanted to. I was unprepared for work re-entry, and now I didn't even have a vacation to look forward to.
So here are 5 1/2 things you can do to help prevent the post vacaton work blues:
1) Schedule into your calendar before you leave for vacation what you will need to do when you get back from vacation - this way you can jump right into work without that fuzzy headed feeling of "where do I begin?"
2) Before you leave schedule into your calendar "open" times - these are to deal with anything that happened during your vacation that you were unable to plan for before you left.
3) If you don't plan on keeping up with emails during your vacation, schedule into your calendar your first morning to SCAN through your email and prioritize just like your paper work - high, medium, and low priority. That's right - I'm suggesting you do not process your email right away (normally, this is the opposite of what I would suggest)
4) Clean your desk before you leave. Obvious, right? Well, not so much. I don't mean have your desk completely cleared off, but it's important that when you come back from vacation with a clear head, you want to sit down at a clean, neat desk. Anything you know you will need to work on your first day back could be in neat files on your desk. Anything that can wait should be put away. This will help you keep your focus.
5) If you have an assistant, have him/her sort through any incoming paper and divide it into high, medium, and low priority. Then your first week back you will see what needs to be taken care of immediately and what can wait without taking time to do the sorting yourself.
5 1/2) If you don't have an assistant, schedule time the first morning back to sort through any new paperwork and prioritize.
Here's a sample schedule for your first day back:
8am - scan through email and prioritize. Schedule time to process high, medium, and low priority for this week. High priority may need to be addressed today (or now)
9am - "open" time to talk with team/boss/assistant/co-workers and find out the hot spots of news of the company that you need to know re: job/projects/etc
10am - sort through inbox - prioritize as per normal
10:30 - deadline for proposal is tomorrow so look over changes made while away on vacation and finish final draft
12:00 - work on high priority emails
1:00 - lunch
1:30 - work on high priority paper work that came in while away on vacation
2:00 - staff meeting
3:00 - follow up on medium priority work that you were working on before vacation
4:30 - begin scheduling in more catch up work for tomorrow as well as "regular" work week
Keep in mind that your first day back is a "catch up" day (and could be a couple of days) in addition to your normal weekly meetings, phone calls, emails, etc. By scheduling in time for this, the "catch up" part can move along quickly. You may be able to get support from your manager and prevent lots of new work coming in the first day by showing him/her that with this schedule, you can be productive immediately on your return from vacation.