Keys to Combatting Workload After Vacation
I love getting away with my family on vacation. It’s become an essential part of my life rhythm.
Unfortunately, I don’t particularly love the workload that often adds up while I’m away. (I’m sure this is true for most of you reading this.) For years I struggled to take extended time off because I knew that my return to work would be greeted with a mountain of tasks and meetings. Experiencing this time and time again caused me to rethink how I approach vacationing. Yes, I have a strategy (as sick as that may sound :-).
I find that the following things help me to cope better with my workload so that I can enjoy my vacation times a bit more:
- Before Vacation
- Keep your schedule as open as possible for the week or two leading into vacation. I know that many choose to wine down at work before vacation, but I choose to do the opposite. For me, the week or two leading into vacation is a great time to plan or work ahead on projects that I know I will need to work on when I get back. Moving ahead of scheduled deadlines relieves a ton of stress during time away. These weeks leading up to vacation have become “move ahead” times for me.
- Set up email auto-replies that tell people you will be back to responding the week of your return. If you have some flex, give yourself some cushion days (one or two) to catch up on work and emails when you return. If you’re coming back into the office on a Monday, you can promise people that you’ll return emails by Tuesday or Wednesday.
- During Vacation
- I used to think that it was sacrilegious to do any work during vacation. I no longer think that. (Yup, I probably just got anathematized by some people.) Let me explain. Some people (like me) don’t find it too filling nor refreshing not to do anything work-related during vacation. Contrarily, I find it draining or even stressful to know that I am not doing something productive as it relates to work, especially in light of the kind of work I do. Call it insecurity, workaholism, or a unhealthy habit. Whatever it is…it’s me. I’ve tried to change but I haven’t been able to yet. It’s one thing to take a day off (which I do weekly) but it’s quite difficult to completely “unplug” from my vocation on vacation (nice…it rhymes).
- I used to sneak in minutes here and there to work while I acted as if I was not. First of all, I’m not that good of an actor. My family knew what I was doing. Secondly, my wife recognized that completely “relaxing” all the time was not relaxing for me. Therefore, I just put everything on the table for her.
- I now have mutually agreed upon times during vacation to work on a few important items. Now, before you workaholics get all excited, this is only a couple of hours collectively during an entire trip for only those things that are significant enough to address. Very few things need this kind of immediate attention. This has drastically reduced the amount of “catch up” post vacation. My wife has worked with me on this and we’ve found that it’s made our time away more enjoyable while continuing to move things along vocationally.
- Why I think this works for me is because I choose to be fairly present in the lives of my family throughout the week. In other words, I’m not vacating work just during vacation. I’ve developed a rhythm and schedule that allows me to be present with my family most nights of the week as well as weekends. For me, vacation is not primarily a time to catch up on family time. It’s an opportunity for us as a family to enjoy each other and explore new experiences together (e.g., visiting new places, meeting new people, etc.).
- After Vacation
- It’s all about cushion in scheduling. I’ve learned that it’s extremely difficult to hit the ground running after vacation, especially if there’s work to catch up on. Give yourself space to recalibrate back into the office.
- Prioritize workload upon return and get to it. Spend 30 minutes to an hour prioritizing things that need to get done. Don’t spend time in paralysis of workload. Just start moving forward. You’ll eventually see things get done.
While this approach won’t work for everyone, I hope that it has helped some of you rethink your approach to vacationing.