It’s a dirty secret of being a grownup with a professional job — if you go on vacation there is more work both before you leave and after you return.
To actually enjoy my vacation, and not undo the relaxation effects immediately upon my return, here is what I do. There's a handy worksheet you can follow.
This method also works if you will be out of the office for work related travel — although you’ll often still be checking email during that time so people can still get a hold of you if necessary.
About two weeks before I leave for vacation, I spend a couple of hours looking ahead. Friday afternoon is often a good time for a block of uninterrupted time. For me, it is important to actually mark this time in advance on my calendar or it is likely not to happen as I get busy. I’m so nerdy I like to pre-schedule the time when I first schedule my vacation — that way I don’t forget about it.
During the time I set aside, I look at my calendar for the next five weeks. Yes, five weeks. The idea is to take stock of the time leading up to vacation, what will be happening in the office while I’m gone, and what I’ll face when I return. This makes for a smoother transition in and out of vacation.
Then I work backwards — looking at my calendar for the two weeks after I return from vacation.
I use the space in the checklist to write down tasks that have to happen before I leave, meetings I will reschedule, and things I’ll want to follow up on immediately upon return.
I schedule my out-of-office email notification to start sending notices at least 3 hours before the end of the day on the last day I’m in the office. I let my boss and any key personnel know that I’ll still be checking my email through the close of business that day. What I’m doing is creating a buffer in case any “fires” come in at the last minute when I’m about to leave. I do the same with my phone greeting.
I also set up my email triage folders.
As I transition my brain from vacation to work mode, I find it helpful to follow a checklist when I return to the office.
My Re-Entry Tasks
My husband would triage his phone messages before he triages his email messages. Play around.