Have you ever come home from a vacation and returned to work on Monday feeling like you need a few days just to recover from PTO? I know I’ve experienced this almost every time I return from a trip, especially if I take a full week off.
The Monday I get back goes something like this: come in early to catch up, spend the first hour going through email, spend the next two hours catching up with people who want to hear how the trip was/tell me about everything that happened at the office, spend another hour going through email, attend several ‘catch up’ meetings with various managers and team members, spend another hour just figuring out what the new to-do list should look like, begin to-do list just in time for either more conversations about things I missed or another meeting, then go home to try again on Tuesday.
This pattern seems to continue throughout the week until you’re finally caught up by Friday (if you’re lucky). Then you’ve spent a week just catching up and haven’t felt like you’ve made much progress. Not the best experience after a supposedly rejuvenating week off. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I feel like I need the rejuvenation just to survive the first week I’m back!
Well, earlier this summer I decided I would try something different before taking almost a full week off to visit Montana with my family in June. Here are some of the things I did before I took PTO that drastically changed my return to the office:
- I cleaned out my inbox.
One of the hardest parts of coming back to work is going through hundreds of emails received while being disconnected. I found that it’s a little easier when everything from before the trip has already been addressed.
- I spent time figuring out what should be done while I was gone and delegated it to others.
I prioritized my time to do only what had to be accomplished before my return. Anything not addressing an immediate client deadline or team member need did not get space on my calendar that week.
- I reminded my team of my plans to be unreachable for a week.
And I did this throughout the week before I left to avoid any last minute crisis that could come up on the day before I was scheduled to leave.
- I organized my desk before I left.
This is a personal tip, but honestly cleaning up my desk and organizing the projects currently going on really helped me close everything off in my mind and allowed me to feel like it was all taken care of while I was gone.
- I took an extra day off at the tail end of my trip.
This, I would say, was the most helpful thing that I did. I went on PTO on a Tuesday and flew back to Memphis Saturday night, but knowing how tired I would be, I took off the following Monday to be able to catch up on errands, grocery shopping, sleep, housework, etc. and was still completely disconnected from work. Honestly, that Monday was the most restful day of my entire week off and really prepared me to come back to work with a good mindset.
Then, I enjoyed my six days without any contact with work. I turned off all notifications, set my email automatic replies and put my work computer away. It took a few days before I stopped thinking about work and wondering how things were going, but man did it feel good to be in the mountains (as evidenced by the above picture) and truly enjoy the beauty of my surroundings and the sweet time with my family without my mind being distracted by my job.
I also did several things when I returned from my trip that helped my first week back. Stay tuned for those tips next week.
Megan Hudson is a former intern whose experience at HORNE changed her mind about what it means to work at a regional firm. As a cyber risk supervisor for HORNE Cyber, she specializes in IT assurance and risk services.