Every professional needs time off to rest and recharge, but getting back into your work routine after a vacation or extended PTO can be tough—especially if you have lots of messages or tasks to sift through. All too quickly, that relaxed feeling you gained from your time away is replaced with stress and anxiety about all the tasks that urgently need your attention.
But your first day back to work doesn’t have to feel so overwhelming. Below, the members of Young Entrepreneur Council share nine tips for getting back into the swing of things after your vacation gradually and coming back to work refreshed and ready to tackle your next challenge.
1. Meet With Your Team To Debrief
Hold a “debriefing” meeting to catch up with your most important team members. A meeting is valuable because it gives your team the chance to mention things that might have been missed in messages. It also gives you a chance to see if the priorities have changed for any action item. Some may have been solved or made less important since messages were last sent. – Matt Doyle, Excel Builders
2. Write Out Your Goals For The Week
Before you dive into all of your emails and messages, sit down with a piece of paper and write out your goals for the week. They may change depending on what’s waiting for you, but your goals can also be about catching up, such as: 1. I will be caught up on all emails by the end of the day; 2. I will schedule time in my calendar to complete tasks that need to be done so my catch-up efforts don’t derail critical items; 3. If I feel overwhelmed, I will remind myself that this is only temporary, and to be grateful for the time off that I got to spend instead of being upset. Lastly, be kind to yourself and thank others for their patience with you! – Alex Brown, The Beard Club
3. Start With ‘Me Time’
Taking a vacation is always extremely rejuvenating, yet all the daunting tasks that add up while you’re out can become overwhelming. The best way for me to tackle my to-do list is to get up early and start my day with me. Getting up an hour earlier at 5 a.m. to stretch, pray, meditate and get my morning tea gets my body prepared for the day ahead. I will then jump into my emails to organize them and get caught up on what happened in my absence. I use a color-coding system in my emails to help me quickly tackle the appropriate tasks. Starting early before the rest of the day is the best way to get myself caught up and ready to tackle the new day ahead! – Racquelle Pakutz, Zen Freight Solutions Inc.
4. Prioritize Your To-Do List
As you go back to the office after some time off, the amount of work you’ll find in the queue can feel like an avalanche. In my experience, however, not everything needs your attention—even if it looks like it definitely does. You can leave some emails without a response for months on end, and it will not change a thing for your business. So always remember the 80/20 rule: 80% of results come from 20% of the efforts. Make a clear distinction between urgent and important, set priorities for each task and block time to get it done. – Solomon Thimothy, OneIMS
5. Implement A ‘Catch-Up’ Day
When I return back from any vacation or extended break from my daily work routine, the first thing I do is have a “catch-up day.” This means not scheduling any meetings for the first day back, but instead spending the time working through the stuff that has piled up. This allows me to get to “inbox zero,” which means having no pending messages. It’s a marker of mine to know when I am on my A-game. Taking this time to catch up on the first day back results in the mental clarity to properly plan out the remainder of the week and provides the momentum to be at your peak performance as soon as possible. – David Henzel, TaskDrive
6. Tackle Tasks In Batches
Planning ahead is the key. I try to be home at least two days before I have to get back to work. This gives me a bit of a buffer to settle back in and overcome any jet lag. When back at work, I try to batch process the tasks at hand. I set aside one to two hours for personal emails, then change course and do meetings, and then come back and do work-related emails. Focusing on one thing at a time and not jumping from task to task, each requiring different thought processes, helps me a lot. – Sheila Nazarian, Nazarian Plastic Surgery
7. Start With The Most Intimidating Task First
Starting back at work after a long vacation sure can be daunting. If you play a key role in the company, you might be faced with huge piles of to-do’s that all seem to be urgent and important. One of my best tips to help you tackle all those work tasks on your first day back is to start with the most intimidating task first. By starting with the task that causes the most mental anxiety, you’ll be able to better focus on the rest of your work tasks for the day. Once you’ve completed that one big task, you will feel more accomplished and less stressed, giving you a boost of confidence. Continue down the task list in the same way, working from most intimidating to least. Using this strategy, you will find the workday only gets easier as it progresses. – Richard Fong, Assured Standard
8. Avoid Meetings During The First Half Of The Day
The best tip I have for starting strong after your first day back from vacation is to avoid scheduling any meetings for at least the first half of the day. If possible, block off that time in your calendar so that your team knows you’re busy and use that to deep dive through your inbox and to-do list. Respond to the most urgent things first, and then come up with a game plan for tackling the rest of it throughout the day or week. As you create your list, take an honest look at the tasks and decide if they really need to get done and, if so, determine if you are the best person to do them. Sometimes “urgent” tasks aren’t as pressing as they’re made out to be! – Diana Goodwin, MarketBox
9. Take Your Time
Don’t try to get caught up all at once. Take the first day back to tackle the most important aspects of your day. Don’t neglect any aspect of self-care, like your morning workout or having your favorite tea with work. The “welcome back” slam will pass, and you’ll be back on your A-game before you know it. Try to build decompression time into coming home. Maybe plan to have the second half of Sunday, or whenever you come back, to do absolutely nothing but unwind and slowly shift gears back into your work routine. We’re all human, so we all understand this problem, but figure out what works for you and stick with it. – Tyler Bray, TK Trailer Parts