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 six simple tips to enjoy your time off, knowing you’ll have a stress-free return from vacation.
1. Set Expectations And Stick To Them
Set clear expectations with your staff and clients that you are taking time off and do not break your own rules. If you tell everyone you will not be able to return emails and phone calls until you are back in the office, stick to it! If you return even one call while you are away or reply to just one email, you are asking for trouble because it establishes the precedent that you will 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!
2. Change Your Voicemail
Let callers know you are out of the office and provide a date of return in which you will be able to connect with them. Include instructions on who can assist them while you are away and how to get a hold of that person. Furthermore, delegate some of your responsibilities for while you are away to reduce the amount of calls you must return and tasks you must complete once back in the office. Less work to return to means less overwhelm and stress.
3. 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. The temptation to open emails in your inbox can be difficult. 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.
4. Don't Schedule Meetings The Day Before You Leave Or The Day You Return
Meetings and appointments have a funny way of giving rise to new tasks to complete, projects to design, and people to reach out to. The last thing you want is a mind full of new tasks demanding attention right before departing. Use this day for catching up only. Close open loops on tasks and projects so you can leave with a clear head, T’s crossed, and I’s dotted. Don’t schedule meetings for your first day back either. Use that day strictly for returning important emails and voicemails and catching up on current tasks and projects. Otherwise, you could be playing catch-up for weeks.
5. 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.
6. Process Your Emails Upon Your Return
Although tempting, do not come back from vacation and 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 all the emails that came in while you were away will overwhelm you, get you sidetracked, and result in a confusing, disorganized inbox. Haste makes waste. Take the time to 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. Utilize these seven quick tips and you will be able to enjoy your time off and experience a stress-free return from vacation!