With summer in full force, many are returning from their summer holiday break or planning their next exciting getaway. Whether you’re just now purchasing your tickets or if you’re still enjoying the glow of your Caribbean tan, you can benefit from our tips and tricks for avoiding post vacation overwhelm.
Did you enjoy a week in Orlando with the family, spend a long weekend in Vegas with your girlfriends, or hike the Inca Trail in Peru? Regardless of the venue, these productivity tips can help you deal with the stress, overwhelm, and dread that goes hand-in-hand with coming back to reality.
Make sure your projects are under control before you embark on your journey
Be proactive, rather than reactive, to reduce the pain and dread of returning to work or home. The key is preparation. Make sure your projects and tasks are under control before your departure. At the office, take care of your high priority tasks, communicate your status to your manager and co-workers, and delegate any tasks that require completion before your return. If you’re managing a household, use project management techniques from the experts. Break large projects such as laundry and shopping into manageable tasks. Create shopping lists, checklists, or to-do lists.
Clean and organize your house before your departure
Nothing makes you feel more post vacation stress than returning to a dirty and disorganized house. Schedule time before your departure to clean and organize. Mow the lawn, if necessary. Outsource, if you have the budget. Hiring a cleaning service or lawn service will free up your time for packing and making plans, such as pet care, vacation itineraries, and reservations.
Create out-of-office or “unavailable” messages
Create out-of-office messages for both professional and personal voicemail and email. It’s basic office etiquette to ensure others are aware you’re not available, and co-workers tend to be self sufficient when they understand you’re away. For personal email and voicemail, create a message to let friends and family know that you won’t be answering email or returning calls for an extended period of time to avoid a flood of messages upon return.
Allow yourself time to recover
Schedule an extra day of vacation to unwind and prepare at home before returning to work or school. Don’t feel obligated to finish all projects, complete all tasks, and return all phone calls and email messages the first day you return. It’s especially important to schedule extra time if you’ve traveled across time zones and you’re suffering from jetlag.
Unpack and sort laundry
Upon return, unpack your bags, and sort your laundry immediately into piles or baskets. This is where your family can help. Ask children, spouses, or partners to assist with sorting, folding, and putting away laundry.
Attack your email inbox
Have you ever returned from vacation to an inbox full of hundreds or even thousands of email messages? If you haven’t started using Merlin Mann’s 43 folders techniques for email (Inbox Zero) this is a good time to start. It provides great tips to get your inbox to zero quickly and efficiently.
Quick email tips include:
- Set filters on email beforehand. For example, sort email from your manager into one folder so you can start there upon return. Sort noisy, repetitive email into another folder that has a lower priority. You can address those items later.
- Respond to email immediately. Answer email that you can immediately, and remember it’s not necessary to write a long response.
- Create lists. Create a to-do list or task for anything that requires an action, then don’t be afraid to archive or delete the associated email.
Attack your “snail mail”
Sort the items from your mailbox into the following groups:
- Coupons. Place any handy coupons or gift cards into one folder.
- To do. Place any mail that requires a task into one folder.
- To file. Place any mail that requires scanning or filing into one folder.
- To pay. Place any bills that need to be paid online or by mail in one folder.
- To read. Place catalogs, newspapers, and magazines that you wish to read later in this pile or folder.
Everything else goes into the recycle bin.
Stock the refrigerator and cupboards
After returning from a vacation, the refrigerator and cupboards might be bare. Once again, preparation is key. Make sure you have frozen meals stocked beforehand so you have something to eat as soon as you arrive home. Next, create a shopping list and schedule time to purchase groceries. After eating at restaurants for an extended period of time, your budget might be low and your waistline might be expanding. Home-cooked meals will help solve both issues.
Delegate your tasks
You can’t do it all yourself. Make sure your family pitches in, and avoid the temptation to redo their work. Make tasks clear and age appropriate. Set realistic deadlines. Give younger children single tasks and set a timer for completion. Consider using a reward system for completed tasks.
Find tools to help
There are several tools that can help you manage these items to achieve harmony. Choose a tool that works for you. LightArrow has created the app, LifeTopix, to help manage most of these items. LifeTopix is a calendar based productivity app for personal organization and time management available on the iPad and iPhone. It helps you manage your to-do lists (checklists), projects & tasks, notes, files, grocery shopping lists, service providers (such as pet care, cleaning services, or lawn maintenance), travel, and much more. You can find LifeTopix at the App Store.