There’s nothing better than walking out of the office and heading off on a long vacation. But there’s nothing worse than the back to work blues — the dread that starts to creep in the night before you return to work and face the mounting pile of emails, tasks, and to-dos waiting for you.
Whether you’re enjoying the annual end-of-year break or stepping back into the office after a soothing summer vacation, you’ll have to go back to work eventually. And while it’s certainly going to suck, returning to the 9 to 5 grind doesn’t have to ruin your life, steal your freedom, and leave you stressed. You just need to ease back into the workday mindset.
Here are 4 ways to make the transition from vacation to work less daunting.
1. Leave Your Vacation Auto-Reply Email On for a Few Days
Once you’ve returned to your desk and started diving into the work that awaits you, it’s tempting to immediately remove your email auto-reply so everyone knows you’re back in the office. However, the second you remove that “Away” notification, you’re likely to get bombarded with requests — and people will want answers ASAP since they know you’re back in town.
Instead of removing that auto-reply, leave it up for a day or two. Harvard Business Review writes that this lets colleagues know you still aren’t able to respond immediately, which gives you a little more time to get caught up without worrying about email pings and Slack notifications every few minutes.
2. Triage Your To-Do List
When you’re trying to get caught up after being out of office, everything can feel overwhelming. You’re annoyed you aren’t lounging on the beach anymore, frustrated with your long list of tasks, and tired from trying to get back on schedule. That’s why it’s so important to remember that not every task is important — and you can, and should, tackle them in order of importance.
You can perform this trick before you head out on vacation or when you’re back in the office post-relaxation. Start your day by making a list of everything you need to get done, from minute to major.
Not only will this triage system help you accomplish more tasks, but it’ll also help your focus. By focusing on just one task at a time, you’ll be able to hone in without feeling distracted by a long list of responsibilities.
3. Don’t Stay Late
One of the reasons we love our time off so much? There’s no need to stay late and expend 8+ hours of energy every day working — and we’re all guilty of putting in overtime more often than not.
However, you shouldn’t go above and beyond to work overtime as soon as you’re back from vacation. It’s tempting to stay late when you have so much to catch up on. But honestly, staying late will make you feel those back to work blues even more. Instead of being productive, you’ll wind up angry, sad, and frustrated, Lifehack.org reports. Skip the effort and head home right at 5PM instead.
4. Ignore Some (or Most) of Your Emails
Your inbox is going to be packed when you return to work, and there’s nothing more overwhelming than trying to wrap your mind around reading 100-plus emails to get back in the swing of working. The smarter, more productive idea, though, is to skip them altogether.
Well, don’t skip every email. But you certainly shouldn’t read every one in your inbox. According to Time, reading every email you missed can bring down your mood and your productivity. And chances are you don’t even need to know half of that information — if there was anything urgent or time sensitive, it’s been taken care of.
So, skip emails that you don’t need to read. Don’t bother with long chains or emails that discuss already solved issues. Read only the most urgent and recent to get caught up.