Tips For a Smooth Return After the Holidays
Taking some time off during the Holidays? Looking forward to enjoying some festivities, but dread the mountain of work you know will be waiting when you return? Make a few preparations now, before you leave, and follow some tips when you return, to help ease you back into a routine and maybe even stretch your relaxed and festive mood well into the first week or two of the new year!
Tips Before You Leave:
Automate Your Email
Create Rules to Filter Emails:
Setting up filters to determine which emails should receive priority upon your return is a huge time saver! Gmail allows you to mark which email type, or contact, as important or with a star. You can even color-code your stars in order of priority in the Settings section.
In Outlook, go to “Rules & Alerts”. There you can fully customize how you want your incoming messages to behave. Sending them to a folder or marking as high priority, are just a couple of timesaving filters.
Out of Office Automatic Reply:
First, take time right now to set up your Out-Of-Office and Voicemail message. These are probably the two most overlooked yet simplest tasks to quickly take care of. Outlook’s “Automatic Replies” and Gmail’s “Vacation Reply” will let you schedule the OOO in advance. Your message can be anything from “I’m outta here!” (not really recommended 🤭) to something more elaborate with information the sender may need. You can also decide if you want the automatic reply to go to everyone, even those outside your organization, or contact list only.
Most voicemails will let you schedule an outgoing message to run at a specific time, but if your phone system doesn’t allow for advance messaging, write the message out now and have it ready to quickly record.
Remember, the idea of advanced settings is so you don’t stress yourself unnecessarily by waiting until 5 minutes before you’re trying to get out the door!
Organize Your Calendar Now
Schedule Meetings Now:
That New Year staff meeting can wait until Tuesday afternoon – 2:30PM to be exact – after you return. A study by YouCanBookMe, shows this to be the very best time to schedule a meeting. Also, don’t forget to schedule a reminder, preferably with a scheduled email in addition to the popup reminder notification.
And, while you’re adding meetings to your calendar, I want you to schedule 3 lunches your first week back. As you ease your way back into the routine, time away becomes paramount. Schedule alternate days (I recommend this!), or consecutively, but do it in “ink” and do not allow yourself to cancel.
Make Time to Socialize:
"If your work situation permits it, leave a day after you've 'officially' booked off and arrive a day before you've announced your official return. This buys you an extra distraction-free day at both ends of your vacation so that you leave feeling better prepared and more relaxed and return to work without feeling overwhelmed."
Another wiggle room tip is your catch-up time. Everyone wants to catch up, get the details of your holiday, whether they stop by your desk, or catch you in the Zoom meeting, these quick “water cooler” chats can quickly morph into a time vampire! Block about 30 minutes of “catch up” time to socialize and catch up with your office pals. Scheduling this time will help avoid unnecessary interruptions and keep you focused.
Prioritize Your Task List:
Make a complete list of all the projects you are working on. Are there any projects that have been on a backburner for over a year, take a good look at it – are you really going to work on them? Can they be delegated or even discarded? Take a few minutes to prioritize everything – use the Eisenhower Matrix to help organize these projects. Your “vacation brain” will thank you when it’s time to jump back into things.
Set up your return task list now for at least the first two days back. When adding tasks, keep it real! Don’t set unrealistic deadlines for your first day back and don’t try to do everything on that first day, this will only leave you overwhelmed, underproductive, and put you behind in your work.
The first day should be sorting through and answering priority emails, just dip your toe in the water, no cannonballs on this day!
Day two should consist of your top three priorities, in order of deadline dates.
Schedule Social Media Posts
If you have a lot of customer interaction, you could hire a Virtual Assistant to reply to comments and private messages, and keep the engagement going.
Get in touch with your clients and let them know you’ll be away. If you’re able, have a backup contact for them in case any urgent needs arise. Clients will appreciate the high-touch service.
"Contact any high-priority clients before going to make sure you've answered any questions and addressed their needs before heading out. It's not only a great customer service habit to get into, it will give you greater peace of mind. It also gives you a simple but legitimate excuse to reach out to clients you may not have talked to in a while."
If you work with a team, make sure everyone is aware of your travel plans and how to reach you in case of an emergency.
Clean Up Your Desk
About 20 minutes before the end of your day, take some time to clean up your desk. Put away the files you’ve been working on, put books back where they belong, straighten up the supplies. Take one last look at your Task list. Are there any projects that have been on a backburner for over a year – are you really going to work on them? Can they be delegated or even discarded?
Tips For Your Return:
Try to stay in a selective stealth mode the first few days back, giving those that “need to know” a heads up about your return. Break up the first few days into little chunks. For example, take care of emails and phone calls on the first day, and review reports on day two.
Do Not Stay Late
As tempting as it might be, slowly easing back into that full “work late” schedule will help you be more focused and productive.
Part of the lure of a vacation is that you're free to do as you please. Work often seems like the end of the fun part of your vacation. Nonetheless, with a bit of strategic planning, and following a few return tips, you can help relieve the stress of the return and harness the excitement and happiness of your vacation.