Ease the pain of returning from vacation.

As much as we all need vacations, the day or week after a vacation often leaves us wondering whether the joy of vacation is worth the pain of returning to work. Between the email backlog, the pain of readjustment, and the fight to get back into your work clothes after two weeks of eating all the biscuits in Oregon (strictly hypothetically), you may feel like you need another vacation just to recover from the stress of getting back into a work groove.Let us ease your transition with this issue of Howe’s Now Monthly. Consider the following DO’s and DONT’s from two Harvard Business Review articles* about returning from vacation. We hope to help you quickly get your work mojo back.


Do you typically return from vacation using this method?

  • Stay up late the night you return, trying to review every ongoing project.
  • Answer all emails, and create a long to-do list of action items that accumulated while you were away.
  • Then, the next day — your first full day of work— do your best to accomplish that to-do list while maintaining a normal schedule of work, meetings, and phone calls.

This is a surefire recipe for wiping out the benefits of your vacation within a few hours of returning to work.


DO enjoy the last day of your vacation.

Let your last night before work still be vacation, or at least your personal time. Don’t open your email or check your voicemail. Unpack, do laundry, make your kids’ lunches (if you have kids and they need lunches), but don’t get back to work until you’re back at work.


DO prioritize what’s important.

In order to get the right things done, we need a filter to help us decide what not to get done. Therefore, identify the most important things you want to focus on for the upcoming academic year. Consider choosing up to five major projects or initiatives on which you want to spend 95% of your time.

These five priorities form the lens through which you focus on the world. Without them, everything would be a blur. With them, you can distinguish what’s important — and worth your time and attention — from what’s not.

Before touching a post-vacation email, look at your list of five and connect with the priorities that will make this year productive, meaningful, and fulfilling for you. Remind yourself what’s important.


DO block your calendar the first week that you return.

Block off significant chunks of time in your calendar for the week after you get back so that you don’t return to a week of back-to-back meetings.

During your open spaces, work on your top 5 priorities. It will be hard to resist the temptation to do everything. But if something doesn’t fit into one of your five areas of focus, defer it to someone more appropriate, politely decline it, or, if you can, simply ignore it.

Just as important, schedule a couple of lunch or coffee dates with people you’ll actually enjoy seeing, so that you have something to look forward to.


DON’T beat yourself up.

Remember to give yourself grace. Even if you experience some residual vacation hangover, note that’s not necessarily a bad thing: it’s more likely to be a sign that you’ve done a really great job of unplugging from work. As you ease the pain of transitioning back to work, you’ll maximize the restorative effects of the vacation itself.


Leadership Topic: Ease the pain of returning from vacation