One of the hardest things to deal with after taking some time off from work is getting yourself back on track.

Hopefully you’re refreshed, feeling creative and ready to rock! But it’s probably also true that you’re buried under a mountain of e-mail, have lots of calls to return and, if you’ve just spent a weekend in Vegas, you feel like you’ve been run over by a cement truck.

What’s worse is that any good habits you had before you left are in jeopardy of being broken if you can’t get back on track quickly.

Well, as a veteran of many a few days off, and luckily a few longer vacations as well, I do have a few tips that could help make your next transition back to reality an easier one.

h2. Some tips to get you back in the swing of things

* Have a plan for recovery before you leave. Set up reminders, to-dos and meetings before you get away. Answer all your e-mail and let people know you’re going to be away. Clear the decks and whatever you do, do not–I’ll repeat–do not check your e-mail or take work related calls while away unless you absolutely have to. I’ve found this not only to lessen the experience of your time off, but it can actually be counterproductive and a hinderance to getting things back to normal.
* Avoid any last minute tasks, work related e-mail checking or phone calls the day you leave. I didn’t do this on my last long vacation and it came back to haunt me the second I got back. Total ruined my recovery time and it could have waited.
* Schedule an extra day or two to adjust if you can. This one can make all the difference in the world. For example, I wasn’t able to do this when I was away last weekend and I still feel backlogged. Having an extra day can let you get all those mundane things (laundry, going through your mail, making lists…catching up on sleep) done before you get back to working.
* If you had a regular schedule before, make sure and return to that right away.
* Be extra rigid with your organizational system the first week back. Make sure you really stick to whatever time management best practices work well for you. It’s easy to let things slide after you go on vacation and this can carry over and turn into a bad habit. Being extra careful to keep it up will help the transition.
* Stay active. I know it can be hard to get back into your workout or whatever you do for exercise. You’re tired, feeling overwhelmed, etc. But you need to get back into that if it’s something you do because if you don’t, you may have a hard time getting back to it at all.
* Try to get into a regular sleeping pattern as soon as you can. This is really hard for me, but I find that the sooner I can force myself into regular hours, the quicker I’m adjusted. Again, this is where the extra day off helps.

Time off, in my opinion anyway, is essential to keeping productive. Let alone getting the most out of your life. It can be really hard to switch back into work when you’ve been away, but a simple plan and some follow through is usually all I need to get back to it.

As you can imagine by reading the tips, even the best laid plans can go awry, and it can be hard, but you do your best. If I were to recommend one thing above the rest it’d be taking an extra day and using it to take stock, rest up and set the stage for a return to normal.

4 Comments on How To Get Back On Track After Time Off

  1. Todd says:

    I couldn’t agree more about taking an extra day off between vacation and work to get back in the swing of things. I almost always come back from vacation on a Saturday so that I can take care of mundane things and relax before work on Monday.

  2. Brad says:

    Well put and timely. I’m going away on Sunday and will be off work for two weeks. I work in an ad agency and this will be my first real vacation in over two years. I’ve always been afraid to let go and let other people watch my stuff (even though I ALWAYS cover other people while they take time off) b/c I don’t want them to screw things up. Some things I’ve done to ease my anxiety this time around…

    Let my clients and co-workers know that I’d be out over two months ago.

    Remind them constantly about my absence by being pro-active with my work load.

    Started my get back from vacation to-do list over a week ago.

    Finally, trust my co-workers not to screw up by putting them in a position to succeed while handling my clients.

    Great blog Keith. Keep up the great work…

  3. Woob woob! This is just what I needed. Well timed, Keith! I just got back from a week-long trip to Florida, and these tips are going to be helpful in getting back on track.

  4. Stu says:

    Thanks. Organizing that first morning back is a Godsend for me. I make a quick priority list and stick to it.

    My referal post


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