The end of the summer break is almost here. What seemed to stretch out ahead of us like a lifetime of long summer days has passed by as quickly as that brilliant laughter and chat-filled college reunion night, and thoughts of demanding bosses, household demands, and the dreaded commute start to rear their head. It’s perfectly natural that switching from days of relative freedom to the daily demands of working life -separated only by a quick night of shut-eye -is going to stir a sense of unease.
The change in the pace and structure of our days may be dramatic. Days of enjoying more time with loved ones and being relatively free to choose how we spend our time were gratefully lapped up, so it’s inevitable that preparing to get back in to the swing of work -and the expectation of effortlessly hitting the ground running -is likely to run down our reserves of calm. The great news is that it doesn’t have to be this way, as there are ways to flip that anxiety into something altogether more positive and ways to prepare to enter the second part of the year exuding calm and confidence. Here are a few ideas to get you going:
#1: Setting the Tranquil Tone
It may seem a little odd to plan the return to work before you’ve even left, but early preparation is key to avoiding those last-minute panics, and the long working days that can leave us collapsing in to the holiday in a state of complete exhaustion. In the weeks leading up to the break, set aside a little quiet time to capture the key things that would usually be expected during that time. Start with known, regular events, like chairing the weekly team meeting, submitting reports and preparing presentations, before adding in the other things likely to crop up whilst away. The very act of making these visual takes what might otherwise feel a little overwhelming out of the head and on to a holiday handover plan.
Next, review the list, and be ruthless in your assessment of what really needs to be done. It’s highly likely you’ll find tasks that can be scrapped completely, reducing the number of things you need to think about. Where possible delegate early; who can take this on? Be clear on what needs to be done, how, and by when. For everything else, aim to clear these as early as possible in your final week to give yourself the head space and time you might need to manage anything that crops up in the meantime. On your final day remember to switch on your out of office notifications and change any voicemail recordings -ideally on the morning -leaving details of who can help whilst you’re away.
Kathryn, a project manager, tried a different approach before her last holiday, with great results: “I added the dates when I’d be away in my email signature in the month leading up to my break, and made sure to mention it to everyone I interact with regularly during that time. I did only what was absolutely necessary and set expectations about what I was letting go. This meant I avoided my usual last-minute frenzy of work, as I’d given myself the space I needed to get the important things sorted early. It felt so much easier that I’d expected, and I was able to properly wind-down. Even better was that I didn’t return to a mountain of work as I had after previous holidays, it made such a refreshing change and set me up for a good end to the year”.
#2: Your Holiday - Your Time
Don’t be tempted to check messages whilst you’re off. This is your time... you’ve worked hard all year and absolutely deserve the time out. If you’re going away, don’t take your phone work or laptop with you unless it’s absolutely critical. This is your time to quite literally switch off and be free from the distractions of working life.
#3: Healthy Holiday Habits
Experiment with gradually reintroducing routines during the last few days of your break. Things like going to bed and getting up a little earlier will make the trill of your alarm clock far less-intrusive come day one. If you don’t already do so, get into the habit of eating breakfast too, rather than dashing for the door. Even if it’s just a cup of coffee and a slice of toast, getting up a little earlier and nourishing your body will provide some literal soul food to fuel your body and mind in preparation for the challenges that may lie ahead.
Following this simple, flexible plan can give you the tools you need to ease in to your break, leaving you free to fully enjoy it, whilst equipping you to return feeling energised and ready to continue the working year the way you mean to go on. You truly deserve this time, so make this year’s holiday one to remember and enjoy it with ease.