Life after Vacation? Strategies for a Successful Reentry

via Bill Peel
November 23rd, 2016

With two vacation days left, anxiety grows as we envision the mountain of work that has piled up in our absence. Our sense of rest and rejuvenation wanes as we dwell on the Herculean tasks awaiting our return.

Rest is an important part of faithfulness. It reminds us and others that God is in control. But post-vacation anxiety can steal both our confidence in God and our peace of mind.

Michael Hyatt offers three steps you can take before vacation that will pave the way for a smooth re-entry.

  1. Get caught up.
    • Hyatt suggests you block off the day before you leave on vacation to empty your Inbox and clear your to-do list. This way tasks aren’t looming over your heads as you leave and waiting for you when you return.
  2. Delegate authority. 
    • Determine who can speak for you in your absence and let everyone know this person has authority to act as your proxy.
  3. Set expectations for work associates.
    • Send out an email to let colleagues know the dates you will leave for and return from vacation. Make it clear that you will be unplugged, not checking email or phone messages. Be sure to give instructions for what to do in an emergency.

Handling an Overflowing Inbox

Writing for Harvard Business Review, Alexandra Samuel offers tips for managing office emails and avoiding the dreaded email backlog that typically awaits your return to the office. She suggest two important messages that should be included in Automatic Out-of-Office Replies.

  • Let your correspondents know that you may not review all the messages you receive in your absence, and that they should email you again after X date if they need a reply. 
  • As a courtesy, provide an alternate way of addressing their issue more quickly, such as contacting your assistant or a colleague.

It’s also helpful to ask a trusted associate to monitor you inbox while you are away. Create an email folder labeled VACATION with the four subfolders below. Ask your associate to sort through your email and …

  • Delete any messages that do not need a reply and contain no important information
  • File high priority emails that need immediate attention in a folder labeled Respond First.
  • File emails with important information in a folder labeled Need to Know.
  • File less important emails that can be handled in two minutes or less in a folder labeled Two Minutes.
  • File less important emails that do not need an immediate response in a folder labeled Respond Later.
  • Put everything else in a folder labeled Other.

First Day Back in the Office

Plan a catch-up day.

If possible, don’t let anyone but an assistant know you have returned.

  • Start with a time of thanksgiving for your time away and for the work you are returning to.
  • Look through your emails and respond to those that need immediate attention.
  • Identify any problems that need to be addressed; schedule time on your calendar to address them.
  • Set a timer for one hour and knock out as many emails as you can that only require a quick response.
  • Don’t forget to turn off your automatic out-of-office reply.

Also check out our Center for Faith & Work Facebook page for more tips on how to deal with post-vacation workload.