Welcome Back!

A couple of weeks ago, we posted a few words about the importance of summer vacation, but left out one of the main reasons that managers sometimes avoid taking one: coming back to a monstrous pile of work that makes you regret ever leaving. Okay, so we get it…the struggle is real!

But—don’t let this get in your way! Let’s take a few minutes to discuss some strategies to shrink these mountains back down into molehills before that summer beach tan fades away….

Take a deep breath. The first step is to simply not let yourself get overwhelmed.  Lapsing into panic mode and throwing the office into a tizzy does nobody any good, especially you. All you’re going to do is make your staff regret you ever went away, too.

It’s good to come back energized, and you may legitimately be ready to dial up the intensity a notch or two—but don’t forget, your staff most likely didn’t share your vacation time, and may not be ready to deal with your newfound zeal for productivity. Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed, but don’t overwhelm THEM, either.

Weed the garden first. Of the thousands of tasks, messages, and chunks of brain candy you’ll return to find waiting for you, a whole bunch of them could be what one could charitably call “junk.” Run a quick sort through emails, posts, texts, and blogs, and discard the ones that you’re never going to use or need. Those are the easiest weeds to pull, and with one yank, you can toss them into the green barrel.

I’d even suggest doing this the night before you return —it can be a fairly quick and painless task, and can really help you focus when you start your first real day back the next morning.

Prioritize and sort before you “do.” There may well be a lot of issues that warrant your attention “first thing,” but only one can truly come first. Don’t do ANY of them until you’ve sorted them out, seen what’s there, and set them in some sort of priority order.

Staring at a list of 500 emails can be daunting, indeed—so empty out your vacation-week inbox and set  up a handful of temporary folders, either broken into priorities or by type of task, and before you respond to ANY of them, get a process in place. You can’t eat an elephant in one bite, and you also need a moment to decide where to start chewing.

Take frequent breaks. You may be full of energy and want to hit the ground running at 100 mph, but work at a steady pace. You don’t have to get caught up the first day, and there’s no sense in undoing the benefits of a week’s worth of relaxation by logging a 15-hour shift your first day back.

There’s such a thing as diminishing returns—trying to get through an enormous pile of work in half the time it should normally take will result in sub-standard performance and high-level stress. Treat yourself with a little kindness, and if you’ve followed the first couple of steps, the table should be set for you to pursue the many tasks at hand at a measured and methodical—and completely reasonable—pace.

Allow for plenty of face time. If your office is like most and full of folks who get along (at least somewhat), there’ll be plenty of impromptu chats about your time off, where you went, what you did, and how it feels to be back. Don’t short-change these—this is important stuff, especially if you hold a supervisory role. Even if you’re not a chatty person, take a moment to enjoy a little quality one-on-one time with your staff. Think of these as two-minute vacation reminders!

Plus, these conversations can easily segue into casual updates or reports on what happened while you were gone. You don’t have to wait for a formal meeting or a written recap to get the lowdown  on the key events of your week in absentia; they’ll rise to the surface, and you might be surprised how quickly some of them can be dealt with or resolved through a 5-minute hallway chat.

Coming back to work after a vacation doesn’t have to be agony. You’ve been nice and relaxed for a full week—why stop now?

Welcome back!

Grow Big or Go Home!