When the world feels unpredictable, it can be helpful to look to the things we can always count on. The first moments of a summer vacation or long holiday weekend will always be blissful. The last night before it’s time to go back to work or school might always seem tough, no matter how much you love what you do.
I’m feeling this. I’ve recently returned home from my own summer vacation. My family rented a house in Cape Cod, where we spent the week riding bikes, walking on the beach and doing puzzles. We were super careful about being socially distant, and it ended up being a wonderful break.
Looking ahead to the start of my work week, I’m thinking about how tough re-entry to “normal life” can be after time away. That’s true no matter what your normal looks like or what you’ve done with your time away. It doesn’t matter whether you’re finishing a month-long trip to the shore or a weekend camping trip. Getting back into work or school mode can be a painful adjustment but it doesn’t have to be.
Good Time Management Starts With Good Planning
For busy professionals, there can be a lot of time management work that goes into getting ready for a break. Clearing your schedule takes planning. There are projects to wrap up, emails to send, to-do lists to finish.
Planning is just as useful on the other side of your break. I have three key tips to help you make re-entry just a little bit smoother.
1. Consciously plan how you’re going to get restarted and back into work mode.
Ideally, if you’re traveling for vacation, this planning starts when you’re first figuring out those logistics. If you plan to go back to work on a Monday, arrange travel so you’re home on Saturday. That extra day is time to decompress, take care of errands and household chores, and start thinking about your re-entry process and the week ahead.
This buffer time is important whenever you’re preparing for re-entry. It’s not just for summer vacations. Taking that time between [fun, relaxing activity] and [whatever you’re gearing up for] allows you to make a conscious shift in your mindset. For example, at the end of a long weekend or holiday break, you might block out the afternoon and evening of the last day. Make this your time alone to do whatever you need to do to get ready for the next day.
Also, get clear about what you’re going to do first when you do start that next day. What can you put on your schedule that will pull you into your work when you first sit down?
2. Don’t let everyone know exactly when you’re going to be back.
This is especially true when you’re returning from a long vacation and everyone else is still at work. Sure, your team and clients should know when to expect you to be back and reachable…but they don’t need to know that you’ll be home on Saturday and could potentially work on Sunday.
Protect that buffer and your personal time. If you’ve scheduled yourself to start working at 9 a.m. on Monday, don’t respond to routine emails or return calls until then.
3. Set up your week so it’s not overly packed.
Busy professionals and entrepreneurs sometimes feel guilty about taking a break, so they’re determined to do twice as much work when they return.
Resist this urge! It’s really counterproductive to good time management. The whole idea of taking a vacation or a break is to rest and come back restored. It’s no good to end your first week exhausted and already in need of another break.
To the extent that you can, schedule a low-stress first week. Build in plenty of time for exercise and sleep. Delegate and take shortcuts where you can; if having groceries and dinners delivered keeps you from burning out and it works for your family, go for it.
Planning is really a fundamental piece of a good time management system, so it’s at the core of a lot of the practices I teach!
I hope you’ve enjoyed wherever you’ve gone this summer, even if you haven’t left your neighborhood.