Recently we wrote about how to set yourself up to ensure that your summer vacation is as relaxing as possible and a total contrast to your regular, busy working week.
You deserve a break after all, and a complete refresh and recharge will benefit your colleagues and your organisation too.
Today we look at how you can leverage the time you’ve taken to revitalise and refocus, and continue to reap the benefits of taking time out.
Set up for success
Before you go on holiday, decide your strategy for your return. Assuming you’re going back to work on a Monday, decide in advance if you’ll do a quick catch up at some point on the Sunday. Just so you don’t walk into any shocks on Monday morning.
If this is your plan, be specific about when you’ll do this. Sunday morning, afternoon or evening? If you don’t decide in advance, chances are it’ll be on your mind all weekend, whether you’re getting to it or not, and this will dilute that holiday feeling even before you’re back to the office.
Don’t cut your vacation short
To avoid this we’d suggest leaving work until Monday. Why cut your holiday short by a day? Will it actually make much of a difference in the long run?
To make sure you maximise the time you can remain in your vacation bubble, be very clear with everyone before you go that you shouldn’t be copied on any emails until you return. Given that what draws most people ‘back to the office’ even when they’re officially still on holiday is email, this proactive step will instantly remove the temptation to fire up your laptop before you'd really like to.
Managing internal distractions
Also before you go, schedule a quick catch up with your team and / or individuals for when you get back. This is when you should get up to date on everything that’s been going on, not from being copied on endless emails and then drowned underneath them prior to this moment.
When scheduling these meetings, tell colleagues there should be nothing in the diary for at least the first couple of hours of the day you return. If it helps, block this time in your schedule and call it a strategy update - with yourself.
Managing external distractions
Tell everyone outside the business that you’ll be back in the office one day after your actual return. This will buy you time to get back up to speed and reacclimatise to your professional mindset. Never forgetting that in the same way as it takes a little time to wind down from work and get into vacation mode, you should allow yourself time to adjust to the pace of everyday work. If you launch straight int and try to tackle everything on your schedule at a million miles an hour you'll very quickly undo all the benefits of your holiday.
Consolidate your post-holiday intentions
While you were away and relaxed, you will inevitably have been thinking that things will be different when you return. You’ll be different. You’re going to be better at prioritising, protecting time, not getting involved in certain things.
Well now is the time to act on those good intentions. Spend at least the first 30 minutes back in the office (or even the entire slot of strategy time that you’ve booked with yourself) clarifying how the new you will behave.
What you do more of?
What you do less of?
What specifically will you do differently every day?
Then monitor your progress throughout week 1, compiling a list of all the things you will need to delegate or do differently. Or stop doing entirely. One way or another, if you are to follow through with the new you, you simply cannot afford to be doing all the same things in the same ways as you were prior to your holiday. Get into the habit of refining this process weekly.
Start as you mean to go on
Do not resign yourself to a really long first day or a really long week back in office to 'get caught up'. If you do this, these long hours will become your default schedule until you go away again. Others will expect it of you and you’ll soon start justifying this as the necessary normal.
Instead, put a tight framework around your first day and week post-holiday. If anything you should be aiming for a shorter day / week than that which you were working to pre-holiday. Otherwise how will things be different? These are the hours during which you will be focused and effective. Sticking to these hours will change how you operate and make you more efficient allowing you to focus on strategy and your unique value to your role rather than allowing operational tasks and functional obligations to drift into a poorly defined schedule.
Create a fun and balanced schedule, not just a busy schedule
Schedule specific times for continuing to do some of the things you enjoyed on holiday - reading, family time, podcasts, mindfulness, exercise, resting - whatever it is you enjoyed while away, you will enjoy as part of your regular routine.
Making time for these things ensures that work stays within the time boundaries you’ve allocated for it by giving you good reasons to step away and do something you enjoy and that adds balance to your weekly routine. This will ultimately ensure you have better focus, creativity and enjoyment of your work in the long-term.
Be the boss of technology
From the moment you return to the office, manage your tech carefully and don’t have every channel of communication open at all times. Too many distractions will feel overwhelming following the mental space you’ve benefited from during your holiday. Keep emails, messengers, Teams, Slack, Zoom etc OFF until you need them rather than have them quietly calling for attention when you're trying to do something more important.
At least once a day, pause, step away from the busyness of the day and recall how you felt when you were at your most relaxed during your holiday. Can you recapture those feelings quickly or are you drifting steadily further away from how you felt then? What is one thing you can do today that will help you feel you are staying on top of how you’d like to refocus on the controlled and effective mode of operating that you had planned so clearly while you had perspective during your vacation?
Be kind to yourself
All of the above will help but shouldn’t feel daunting or overwhelming. Make the changes that are appropriate for you, when appropriate for you - all are achievable in time, even if they don’t feel achievable all at once. You will have other vacations in the future so there are plenty of opportunities to keep things moving forwards.
Just one thing?
And if you can only do one thing differently when you return from holiday, schedule regular, short breaks during which you can ask yourself, ‘am I behaving as I promised myself I would while I was away, or am I slipping back into old habits and routines?’ Regular checks mean quick course corrections.
Refining the process one step at a time: high intensity interval working
Finally, start thinking now about how you want to feel as you when you arrive at your next vacation. This forward planning will orientate your conscious focus and unconscious decision making towards optimising your time and energy between now and then.
And if you don’t have your next break scheduled, start thinking about when it will be. A regular routine of focused, effective work followed by time to step aside, reflect, review and refocus creates a much more productive year than simply trying to operate at full gas week after week, month after month.