I am a firm believer in the idea that absolutely no one needs a vacation as much as the person who came back from a vacation yesterday. Today, that person was me. This is my first day back in the office after an idyllic, magical 10 day vacation in Greece. The same annual summer vacation I have taken in the last 4 years. And also my only annual vacation (I define vacation as: 1. The only family member vacationing with me is my husband. 2. A beach. 3. No combination of vacation with work travel or meetings).
Why is it so hard to come back from vacation? I love my life, I love my work, I am fundamentally happy. Nonetheless, the sadness and nostalgia of coming back is something I can taste and feel physically from the moment I walk off the plane from Athens, usually in Philadelphia. As I have had this feeling for years past, I have this year figured out a couple of tricks to make the first day back from vacation easier.
Day of travel:
1. Allow for extra layover time on your travel back, if you have a layover. Nothing makes coming back from vacation worse than a missed connection, or having to sleep in an airport hotel.
2. Don't make a work to-do list for the plane ride back. It took me years to discipline myself to do this -- I used to tell myself I would do the work on the plane that I did not do on vacation (my next step is not to have a work to-do list on vacation). That never happened, so when I landed I would feel bad not only about being back from vacation, but also about having watched movies on the plane instead of working.
3. Agree with yourself that when you finally get home, you can unpack or not, do laundry or not, do anything or not. No obligations that night, none whatsoever. So that if you want to watch a marathon of your favorite show you haven't seen in a while, or finish the book you didn't finish on the beach, you can do that.
Day back at the office:
1. Get to the office as early as you can. To me, that ideally is a few hours before most people start working. As I am usually coming from the East, that is also easy, due to the 6 to 7 hour time difference in morning's favor.
2. Have a special routine for the office that morning. While on vacation in Greece, I vowed to spend more time outdoors on a regular basis -- I am convinced this is one of the reasons why this vacation is too therapeutic. So today, I walked to work. That was my outdoors time. I listened to the birds and watched the sunrise.
3. Let your team or right hand know exactly how you want things to be when you come back. Be very specific. My team knows I like piles -- neat, labeled piles. They know I like for them to take care of as much mail as possible, so that I have as little to come back to as possible. I had the treat of a welcome back sign, which actually made me smile at 5 am!
4. Don't schedule any out-of-the-office meetings on your first day back. The piles of paperwork and unanswered emails, as well as spending time with your team, will keep you busy. Adding outside meetings will add more stress than it is worth. (This is also a great rule to have, should you're connecting flights from the day before not go as planned...).
5. Make one very fun and not too late engagement for that evening. For me, it was a belated birthday dinner with one of my best friends. A relatively early dinner, with someone who knows you well enough to not take a jet lag yawn as an insult, with a great meal and a great glass of wine. This gave me something to look forward to all day long...
The first day back from vacation is the hardest... as time goes by, as I remember why I love my life, this feeling of loss and nostalgia will slowly subside while the benefits of vacation will remain with me like a treasure, a reserve of peace and strength that I can rely on for the next 11 months.