Guys, I’m not going to lie to you; I almost stayed on vacation forever. It was really hard to come back. I spent more than a week in the pure bliss that is the great outdoors with my very fun and funny family, and as I write this, it is day two of back-to-work. When this publishes, it will have been a full week. A full week!
The day before we left was a Friday, and again, I’ll be honest, I stopped working at 3 p.m. Central Time (sorry boss/Dad). And even before that, I was completely distracted by daydreams of hiking and boating and paddle boarding. And now that I’m back? All I want to do is look through the photos on my phone of the moose I saw (because, yeah, I saw a moose).
It’s no wonder over half of Americans don’t use their vacation time. You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. But really, we know the taking a break from work, a full break (email notifications off) is important. It’s an important example to set for your team if you have one; it’s important for your mental health and well-being; it’s probably important for your relationships, and it’s definitely important for your ego (the world will continue to spin). So how can we make the process of leaving and coming back a little easier?

Before you leave

Prep as much as you can ahead of time. So much can be automated these days so it’s easy to get ahead of your work. I know there’s a Ben Franklin quote about procrastination I won’t bore you with, but the more you can set yourself up for a smooth return, the less stressed you’ll be that first full day back. You’ll spend less time putting out fires and more time talking about your tan.
Set expectations with your team. Be clear about what you expect and need from them while you’re gone and provide the resources they will need to get it done. If you’ll be fully out of WiFi range for part or all of your trip, let them know and make sure they know who else they can contact. If there isn’t anyone, provide them a message you are comfortable sharing around why you won’t be getting back to them until a certain date.

Fast forward to coming home

If you can, take a day before you are back to work full-time to delete all of those spam emails, do your laundry, unpack, go grocery shopping, and start sifting through the things you missed. Make a list of what you need to address tomorrow with the most urgent first. On your first day back, schedule a meeting with the person who was “you” while you were gone (first thing, if possible) to debrief on the important goings-on, the things they need to transfer back to you and provide updates on any ongoing projects. It’s best if you schedule this before you go so you’re avoiding the scramble and stress that first day back.
Get back into your routine as quickly as you can. The sooner you are back to your old ways, the easier your transition will be. That being said, let your vacation energy carry you! The excitement you felt while you were gone? Let that be your fuel for that 3 p.m. meeting you always hate; use your vacation for what it was meant to do, allowing you to come back with a truly renewed energy.
That’s the whole point of vacation, right? I mean, that, and margaritas.

Nora Philbin

Nora is a co-founder of Happy Spectacular, which she still can't really believe, and she's on a lifelong quest for the world's best cheeseburger (applicants accepted).