Taking a vacation often feels like a double-edged sword. Vacation is an opportunity to break free from the daily demands of life. A permission slip to live carefree, slow down, and really enjoy life. Ahhh. The joy of having nothing to do and nowhere to be. Can you feel it? Pure bliss. Then you return back to work and reality hits you like a truck, make that an eighteen wheeler! As if you didn’t already feel behind before your vacation, you return to hundreds of new emails and tens of voicemail messages waiting for you! This scenario can be an overwhelming feeling and give you a bad attitude toward taking vacations. According to Project Time Off research, 40% of American workers cite the heavy workload awaiting their return as the top challenge in taking time off. It does NOT have to be this way! Utilize these seven simple tips to enjoy your time off, knowing you’ll have a stress-free return from vacation.
1. Stop Working The Day Before You Leave For Vacation
Okay, you can work but don’t schedule any meetings or appointments. Use this day for catching up only. Close your open loops on projects and tasks.
2. Set Expectations And Stick To Them
Notify your clients and staff you are going on vacation. Set clear expectations and do not break them. If you tell everyone you will return emails and phone calls upon your return, stick to it! If you reply to even just one email or return just one call, you are asking for trouble. If you do it once they will expect you to do it again. Forget about a stress-free return from vacation. You’ll be struggling just to have a stress-free vacation at that point. Vacation over!
3. Turn On Your Out Of Office Auto-Reply The Day BEFORE You Leave
If you are working on the projects and tasks you already have on your plate, you are often unable to reply to all the emails that flood your inbox right before you leave. Notify senders a day in advance that you are on vacation to set the expectation that you will not reply to their email until you return. If you wait until you’re about to leave to turn the notification on, you will find yourself responding to emails into the late hours prior to your vacation – just so you can depart feeling like you tied up loose ends and can now relax.
4. Create A Vacation Folder And Email Rules
Set up a new folder within your email account named *Review When I Return from Vacation. Then, create an automatic rule to forward all your incoming emails to that folder. This is an awesome trick to eliminate the urge to read work emails while on vacation. You will not receive the pesky notification that you have XXX new emails in your inbox. The temptation for many of us to look is just way too hard and curiosity is a vacation stressor. Stop it in its tracks!
5. Change Your Voicemail
This is another way of setting clear expectations. Let callers know you are out of the office and provide a date of return. Also include instructions on who can assist them while you are away and how to get a hold of that person. Delegating your responsibilities for while you’re away will reduce the amount of calls you need to return and enable you to have the stress-free return from vacation you hope for.
6. Do Not Overschedule Yourself The First Day Back
Just like the day before you leave, the day you return needs to be used strictly for catching up. Otherwise, you could be playing catch up for weeks! If you are working through chaos and feeling overwhelmed, it will negatively affect your productivity. Do not stretch that time out because of poor planning.
7. Process Your Emails
Do not come back from vacation and simply check your emails! Checking means cherry picking which emails you are going to read and respond to. You need to process each email starting in reverse chronological order (newest to oldest). Processing emails requires you to determine which emails you actually need to take action on, and which emails have already been taken care of so you just need to read them and catch up on their current status. Checking emails will overwhelm you, get you side tracked, and result in a confusing, disorganized inbox. Systematically process each email to determine the action that needs to be taken.
Taking regular vacations is key to improving your productivity and decreasing burnout. Vacations allow you to take a much needed break from your daily work demands and come back refreshed with renewed focus. Don’t turn down the opportunity to take a vacation for fear of the impending doom upon your return to work. More importantly, do not lose the important benefits gained from taking a vacation. Utilize these seven quick tips and you will be able to enjoy your time off and experience a stress-free return from vacation!