The week after vacation is usually productive, because you are refreshed and rested. However, the first few days back to work can be stressful, because the number of tasks seem overwhelming. Full email boxes, voicemail boxes and inboxes can make it difficult to prioritize. How can you get back to work without the stress and anxiety of being overwhelmed? The following strategy will help you tackle your inboxes and get you back to work efficiently.
Step one of the plan takes place before you leave for vacation. Mark out the morning of your return on your calendar. This will prevent others from scheduling meetings during your "catch up" time. You may be thinking you should check your email while your on vacation to prevent email overload upon your return. Studies show checking your email and voicemail on vacation has the opposite effect. It takes away from your relaxation and refreshment which in turn affects your overall productivity. If you must look at email during your vacation set apart a few minutes each day to get caught up instead of doing it throughout the day.
The second part of this plan is looking at your calendar and commitments (i.e. To Do List) the day before returning to work. You can even do this on the plane or car ride home. Just knowing what is ahead helps you prepare for tackling tomorrow. After reviewing your calendar and tasks, make note of your top 4 things you need to accomplish on your first day back.
Start your first day back by checking your voice mail. Clean out your voice mail box, and write down any new action items or requests on your To Do List.
Next, check your email. The most efficient way to do this after being out for a while is to sort your inbox by sender. Sorting by "From" first will help you quickly trash all the spam, offers and ads you missed while you were out. You can also use the "From" sort to move all the newsletters and articles to your "Reading" folder. (I use a "Reading" folder as a holding place for items I want to review later). The next step is to sort your email by "Subject". This helps you quickly see all the emails in a conversation or thread. Most of the time, if you read the most recent email first it will contain all the information you need and you can quickly delete the rest of the emails in the thread. Be sure to write down any new action items or requests on your To Do List.
The next phase of the Vacation Recovery Strategy is to check your physical inbox or any other work queue or database your must check for your requests.
Now, go back and review your To Do List. Have your priorities changed? Make a note of the top 3-4 priorities and set your goals for the day accordingly. Planning out the next few days of priorities is also helpful in making you feel less behind and stressed. If your brain knows you have a task written down and scheduled time, it will stop trying to process it. This is very powerful in reducing your overall stress level.
If this Vacation Recovery Strategy will not work for you or your job, the most important thing you can do is have a plan and follow it. Just having a plan or idea of how you will approach your first day back, will ease your tension and stress.