If like many others you dread the post-holiday workload, you may be putting pressure on yourself that could easily be managed. The key is to develop strategies so that your holiday good-feeling doesn't evaporate the moment you step back in to your workplace.
Before you leave
Try organising your workload before you leave, delegating responsibility, emergency contacts, out of office messages, e-mail re-direction are all measures you can take to minimise the deluge on your return. Ensure that everyone is aware of your absence and make it clear if you are ‘unplugging’ completely, be very clear regarding the level or amount of work you will do in your absence, confusion over who is doing what could mean that key tasks could be missed by you or your colleagues. For smaller companies, leave a colleague with authorisation to make key decisions and let others know the arrangements. If certain tasks need to be carried out make sure everyone knows their responsibilities.
On your return to work
On your return to an overflowing in-box or a list of problems, give yourself a day to work through these and catch up on developments by meeting with key staff. A phone call to key people before your return will ensure there are no nasty surprises and an action plan for your first couple of days will eliminate those that can wait.
For many of us it is the email inbox that poses the biggest task. So some solutions could be to:-
Create a new email folder and move all your ‘holiday’ emails into it. You can then begin to sort these emails until eventually you have a manageable folder where you are working through them in a coherent manner rather than randomly jumping from one client/customer or issue/problem to another. Some experts recommend sorting by consecutively, Subject, From, and lastly Date Received.
Leave your ‘Out of Office’ message active for another day, allowing yourself some breathing space. Once it is off and you are back, you can be chased!
Learn to recognise your decision points
A recent CIPD article advocates a scientific approach in order to be more efficient and productive following an absence by ‘recognising your decision points’. These are the points when you decide to start a piece of work, move from one piece to the next or make a choice about what you will do next. We usually do this automatically such as opening your inbox and throwing yourself into the first task. But the idea is to use these decision points to pick the piece of work which is going to be most beneficial to do, given the time you have, the energy you will use and its importance. They also suggest ‘managing your mental energy’. The idea is that you do the work which you have the mental capacity to do in the time available, so rather than managing your time you manage your energy.*