Hopefully, you’ve seen the recent reports that there’s good news regarding Americans and their vacation time. According to a recent survey by the US Travel Association, the number of vacation days employees took last year increased to an average of 17.2. While many are still leaving vacation days unused, that number is up by an average of a half day. I’ve seen this reflected with my own clients who in the past might have skipped summer trips, but these days are making more getaway plans. I applaud everyone for seeing the value of taking time away to rest and recharge from the hectic pace of work life. Unfortunately, a new complaint I’m hearing from these folks is that when they return, they’re overwhelmed by the work volume that awaits them. You’ve heard it, too, I bet: “I need a vacation from my vacation!” This is an easily avoided debacle. I’ve got some tips and tricks that with a little planning and forethought will have you returning to the office Monday morning refreshed and unstressed about what lies ahead.

Be Deliberate on Where & How You Vacation

First, be deliberate about how you’re going to spend your time away so that you maximize your de-stressing ability. We live in a world where time is our most precious resource, so it is imperative that we spend vacation time wisely. You’ve got to ask yourself what sort of vacation will provide you with the most ability to relax and unwind. While I know it’s not true for many people, Disney World is this place for me. The creativity and imagination that Walt used to create a space for families permeates the park and the attention to detail and service of its staff will have me returning with my family again and again. But that’s me. You’ve got to figure out your soothing place and then head there for your next trip. 

Minimize the Volume of E-Mails that You Receive While You Are Gone

Second, while you’re away, you’ve got to set up some boundaries with your workplace. Your priority is to manage the expectations of your team and clients of your availability while you’re not in the office. The first thing to master is the fine art of the out of office notification. The message should state you are on vacation and will have limited ability to respond in a timely manner (if at all).  To that end, I’ve had clients say they will be on at a location without access to a network connection in order to avoid the pressure of responding while they are gone.  The irony is that they might be hanging out at home.  They just want to free themselves from the pressure and expectation to respond to e-mails while on vacation.  Then, depending on your office’s protocol, you should either divert clients to another person who can address their concerns or set clear expectations as to when you will be responding to email.  Once that is established, you need to decide if you want to look at your e-mail at all during your vacation (Note that I said “look,” not “respond”).  As an entrepreneur, I am completely responsible for my work and my work flow. I cannot afford to completely check out from clients and projects for an entire week. Therefore, each morning before my family wakes, I get up and spend about 20-30 minutes going through my email and looking for any fires that might have popped up. I do set the boundary of not checking in during the day since that’s the time I’ve devoted to my family and the pursuit of rest. I follow this practice because I know I’ll feel a whole lot better if I’ve spent a little time each day doing clean-up rather than returning to work and discovering an email avalanche in my Inbox.

Give Yourself a Re-Entry Day

Last, be intentional about how you return home from your time away. In my mind, nothing erases the calm and unstress of my vacation than returning to a house in chaos or being exhausted from the return trip. In my family, we take time to clean the house and do our regular chores before we head out. That way dirty dishes, piles of laundry and nasty toilets aren’t waiting for us when we walk in after being away for a week. We’re also very thoughtful about planning our flights and car trips home. While there’s always the desire to spend every minute possible at our favorite vacation spots, returning home at the last minute is a sheer recipe for disaster. Delayed flights, blown tires on the interstate, major traffic snarls—who wants to show up to work the next day exhausted from these unplanned events? Instead, give yourself time to return and readjust to life before you have to be in the office. So instead of that Sunday 8PM return flight, opt for the Saturday noon one instead. You’ll give yourself time to unpack, go through the mail, address any concerns at home before you’ve got to get back to work on Monday morning. 

Everyone needs time to disengage from the daily demands of their work schedule. The goal is to maximize your time and your ability to unwind in such a way that you’re prepared to return to work with as little stress as possible. Choosing the right vacation spot, giving a bit of daily attention to the Inbox, and planning a strategic return are the keys to setting yourself up for post-vacation success. Implement these habits and that Monday morning return will be a breeze.