“Re-entry” After Vacation

Ever get a sick feeling as you are driving up to your house after a vacation? Thoughts of laundry, mail and bills tumble together with concerns about backlogged work and unknown challenges. I call this time “re-entry,” and it can be a tricky time. Here are some ideas on how to make it as smooth as possible:

 1. Manage your expectations ahead of time.

No one should expect to step seamlessly back into the daily routine after having been gone. The first week back will involve some extra work, some compromises and frequently a feeling of being “off your game.” This doesn’t mean that your vacation failed to refresh you. Quite the contrary! It means that you successfully detached from regular life and now need to start again. This is normal and even desirable. The key is to mentally prepare for this to be a week of adjustment during which you will be ramping back up to speed. By the end of the week, with the benefit of having been away, you will likely be moving even faster and more efficiently than before you left.

 2. Use the trip home to tackle anything you can:

  • Cull through emails and delete anything unwanted.
  • Students, check teacher websites for any “surprises” posted while you were away.
  • Check voice mail on your home number and return calls while waiting for flights/riding in the car. Capture a list of anything you will need to follow up on when you are back.
  • Make a grocery list for items to purchase when you get back
  • Coordinate calendars for the upcoming week (or two!) with family members
  • Make a “to do” list for each day of the upcoming week. Spread tasks out and build in time each day to handle unexpected issues.
  • Discuss a “plan of attack” for the minute you walk in the door. For example, tell family members “Carry all dirty clothes to the laundry room and take your suitcases up to the attic.” Or “Mom will take the baby in and get her settled while Dad carries suitcases to each bedroom and sorts the mail.”

 3. Once home, eliminate any “optional” activities from your schedule.

  • Pitch catalogs/auxiliary reading; there will be plenty to read next week.
  • Decline invitations to social activities until you’ve been home for a week.
  • Resist the urge to turn on the TV/surf the internet/play video games (you’ve just had a vacation… time now is better spent being productive.)

 4. Extend the glow of the vacation.

Sometimes we are so focused on getting reoriented that we squash the benefit of the vacation we’ve just enjoyed. Even if your vacation was exhausting (or didn’t go as planned), there are still some moments that are worth reliving: shared jokes, funny stories, highlights, beautiful images, etc. Don’t let the crush of reality steal these from you. Build in time each day to keep these memories alive. Maybe you recall a favorite memory over dinner, or pull out a souvenir mug to fill with hot chocolate each morning. Perhaps you could upload a photo to be your new wallpaper, or play “vacation” music you as you tackle mindless chores. Be intentional about maximizing the return on the investment you’ve just made.

While no amount of planning can eliminate the crunch of re-entry, a little conscious effort and mental preparation can make the process smooth and manageable.

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What do you find helpful when you are first returning from vacation?