What You Should Do Before Leaving for Vacation—And What You Should Do When You Come Back

We've all been there: Relaxed and rejuvenated, you head into the office after vacation ready to take on the world…only to have an overflowing inbox or surprise client crisis bring you crashing back to reality. It's easy to rethink the idea of taking vacation altogether when you're forced to work twice as hard the week after taking PTO. But by prioritizing the following action items before and after your vacation, you can ensure a smooth absence and pleasant reentry to the working world.

what to do before vacation

Five Pre-Vacation Tasks To Make Leaving Work Easier

1.  Schedule A Smart Itinerary

Strike the right balance between maximizing your time off and allowing yourself enough time to prepare for work when you return. Having Sunday to do laundry and grocery shop will make the week after vacation go more smoothly than returning to town on a late Sunday night flight. Plus, an early return builds in buffer time in case of travel delays. Who wants to waste another day of vacation in an airport?

2.  Update Stakeholders On Your Projects Before You Leave Town

If your boss or clients know you've left them in good shape, they're less likely to interrupt your beach time with questions.

3.   Turn On Your Out-Of-Office Responder, And Update Your Voicemail

Make sure everyone who contacts you during your absence has a clear understanding of when they can expect a response. Include a colleague's contact info for emergency assistance. (Double-check that your out-of-office message doesn't contain outdated info. Leftover info from a prior absence is confusing and looks unprofessional.)

4.  Set Expectations For Communication While You're Away

How connected you need to be depends on your position, your office culture and your travel plans. (Pro tip: It's hard to get in touch with someone on a cruise—use that information to your advantage.) Let your boss, direct reports and clients know how accessible you'll be, and then stay within that range of availability. It's all about managing expectations.

5.  Write Your To-Do List For Your First Day Back

You'll feel much more in control upon your return to the office if you know which tasks you need to prioritize.

And Five Tips For Avoiding A Post-Vacation Slump

6.  Block Off Time For "Reentry."

Don't schedule a big client meeting or employee performance reviews for your first day back. Block off time in your calendar to deal with lingering emails and voicemails, catch up with your team, and check in with your boss.

7.  Practice Self-Care

Don't let an empty fridge be an excuse to eat junk food. Have some go-to items at the ready (cans of tuna, yogurt, string cheese, etc.) so you can return to some semblance of healthy diet. Make a point to return to your regular sleeping schedule, too.

8.  Share Vacation Stories Appropriately

Your coworkers don't really want a blow-by-blow account of your time on the beach; after all, they spent the week under fluorescent lights. And if you really let your hair down, be discriminating with how you share your vacation photos, particularly if you're friends with your colleagues on social media. (Remember Michael Scott's vacation photo snafu on The Office?)

9.  Bring A Thoughtful Souvenir To Your Team

Build goodwill with your colleagues by bringing back a treat for the team—think saltwater taffy from the boardwalk or maple syrup from Vermont. You don't need to go overboard. Just show how thoughtful you are.

10.  Plan Something Pleasurable For The Next Weekend

Time always seems to go faster when you have something to look forward to. Make plans to have fun the next weekend in your hometown.

Going on vacation shouldn't be more stressful than staying at work. Plan for your absence with as much care as you pack your suitcase, and the rewards will be great.

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