Six Tips for Getting Back to Work Effectively After a Vacation

By Chandler Milne, December 09, 2015
Six Tips for Getting Back to Work Effectively After a Vacation

Coming back to work after a vacation can be overwhelming and difficult. Here’s some of our favorite tips for getting back into the swing of things as quickly as possible.


That’s right, I said pre-vacation. Ensuring a successful and fast transition back to work starts before the vacation ever begins. (Sorry if you’re reading this after a vacation, there’s still some hope for you just keep reading)

1. Leave with the smallest to-do list possible

Thomas Jefferson said, “Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today.” His untrustworthy vice president Aaron Burr who later had troubles with the law and faded into obscurity has been quoted in saying, “Never do today what you can put off till tomorrow.” Which one would you rather be?

Take time before leaving to finish as many to-dos as possible. Nothing makes your return quite as difficult as a bunch of late projects to come back to (not to mention the unnecessary stress during your vacation). 

2. Keep your first days back open

Don’t make things harder for yourself by coming back to not only a full inbox, but also a full schedule. Mark some personal time on your calendar during the first few days back to unbury yourself from the vacation.

Here’s a tip on adding appointments to your calendar.

3. Commit to a vacation work (or no work) schedule

Planning to do a little work over the vacation can help minimize the mountain of work that you may come back to, but it also has the potential to turn your vacation from a relaxing escape to a remote office. Before leaving for your trip, if you’re planning to do any work while out of the office, commit yourself to a somewhat regular schedule and stick to your plan. Your consistency and dedication to work-vacation balance can make for a more successful vacation and vacation return.


4. End or change automatic replies

If you’ve been a good little information worker you should have set up automatic email replies before leaving. If you didn’t set a specific timeframe for these emails, you’ll need to jump in and turn them off. No need to tell your team that you’re on vacation when they can clearly see you at your desk. 

That being said, the usefulness of automatic replies is not totally spent. Consider putting on a new set of automatic replies for the next day or so letting folks know that you are still getting up to speed after vacation and will reach out to them soon. This will buy you some additional time to get things going in the right direction.

Here’s some tips on setting up automatic replies:

5. Don’t let your inbox rule you

The biggest mistake many of us make when coming back from vacation or even coming in at the beginning of a new day is to head straight to our email. Email is typically just a medium for everyone else to make their agenda ours. You’ll be far more productive if you got into your first day back with a plan and a list of things you’d like to accomplish. You’ll of course want to address the email monster, but don’t let it rule your return to the office.

6. Clean up conversations

Speaking of the email monster, here’s a tip that will save you a lot of time and can effectively shrink your inbox. If you use conversation view in Outlook (You should it’s great), there’s a handy little function called clean up conversations. In just a click or two, Outlook will read through your inbox and eliminate unnecessary emails due to duplication. Essentially it turns those long email threads that include dozens of repeated emails into just a few emails that contain only unique information. I highly recommend giving it a try. Here’s a video that will explain more:

Coming back from vacation is no small feat, but hopefully these tips will allow you to more quickly return to being effective and productive at work.

Categories: Microsoft Software
Chandler Milne

A jack-of-all-trades kind of guy, Chandler has varied interests and skill sets including marketing, athletics, technology, woodworking, and learning. If Chandler's not thinking about BrainStorm or a new way to improve his house (and drive his wife crazy), he's probably not thinking at all.

Follow him on Twitter: @chandlermilne

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