Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Worst Day of the Year: First Day Back on the Job After Vacation

Here's the biggest news flash of the day: The world did not fall apart while I was on vacation.

The birds are still singing in the trees, the Earth is still rotating and the weeds in my garden have continued to thrive. I received nearly 200 e-mails in my absence, and dozens of phone messages. None of them were critical. Well, at least to me. (Macy's really, really wants me to shop their online sale, and someone felt it was imperative that I was aware some woman is suing Victoria's Secret because of a thong injury.)

But, I can say with complete certainty that nothing was so important that it required me to take a laptop on vacation or check my phone messages.

Many of you urged me not to do it, and I listened to you -- and to myself.

So now I'm back at work, trying to tackle all the e-mails and phone messages and doing my best to ignore the tic starting at the corner of my eye. Still, I'm coming to quickly realized that this may be the worst day of the year.

I'm trying, really trying, to hang on to my vacation glow, but I can feel it starting to fade. My office looks like a cyclone went through it. I wrote things on my calendar for this week that I am now having difficulty understanding, such as: "Fri. a.m., call Dave for interview."

Who the hell is Dave??

OK, I think I've learned that while the vacation was everything I dreamed of and more, I may have sabotaged myself for my first day back at work. There's no reason this has to be so bad, is there? I used to have a boss that would always say to me: "You play, you pay" on my first day back from vacation. I always had the overwhelming urge to smack him.

Was he right?

What's the best way to handle the first day back from vacation? If you've got any suggestions, I'd love to hear them.

Before my tic gets any worse.


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Anonymous said...

Tackle the most difficult job first and the rest will seem like a piece of cake. And by the way, 'you play, you pay' comment...crap.

When I needed to take vacations (when I was an employee and commission-based) my employer would say, 'sure you are entitled to take your vacation but can you afford it?"

My response, "I can't afford NOT to take a vacation."

It's guilt to the max and it's ridiculous. Don't fall into that mindset.

Anita said...

I think you're right. I'm trying to prioritize and find myself realizing that if something waited seven days for my return, another day is not going to be a crisis!
Thanks for the reassuring -- and sensible -- words.

Anonymous said...

Hi Anita!

Welcome back! Glad you had a terrific vacation!

I’ve always had the “you play, you pay” experience. However, in recent years, I’ve kept the vacation glow longer, by taking breaks to look at my vacation photos – which I load even before I buckle down for the ride … then I suck it up and dig in. I scan everything first and set priorities -- and then jump right into the low priority items. Why? Sense of accomplishment, yes, but also to let my thoughts about the more challenging items percolate. I also focus on e-mails that reconnect me with the terrific people I know. Not exactly Time Management 101, I know, but it works for me!

The first day is usually a *long* day, but at the end, I’m in really good shape and can re-capture the vacation glow as I drift off to sleep!

Hope this helps.

Anita said...

Good advice! I've done some of what you suggested without even realizing it. I sent a lot of "thanks!" e-mails to people, which helped me be able to clear out some of the in-box. I think what I'm having the most difficulty with is focusing on more than a surface level. It's like my mind is saying: "Don't go there! Not ready! Not ready!" Hopefully, my brain will slowly start to re-engage.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure the horse is already out of the barn at this point, but I always insist that my first day back at work is a half day. Granted, I'm almost always sick when we come home (don't ask me why) so it's easy to come in long enough to touch base and then go home to recuperate from the fun a little longer.

Take it easy and think of it as re-entering a cold pool after sitting in a jacuzzi for a while. Eventually you'll get back to the swing of things but the adjustment is always a little rough.

Anita said...

Fortunately, I wasn't sick when I returned home, but a little bumped and bruised from some things like hiking, canoeing, etc.
One of the things I did do was end my day at 5 p.m. I didn't even check messages later on. That's something I'm going to try and incorporate as much as possible in the future. I learned that there's rarely anything so important that it can't wait until the next day, and spending some time with my family is much, much more important than getting out an e-mail.
Thanks for posting.

Karen Putz said...

Anita, I'm impressed, you really did unplug and enjoy your vacation! Wasn't it great? Sure, you're a little overwhelmed right now and it's hard to get back into the swing of things, but another week from now, it'll all be back to normal. You can reflect back on that vacation knowing that you truly enjoyed it without interruptions. That's precious!

Anita said...

It was easier than I thought, but several things helped:
1. My husband also agreed not to work, or bring his laptop. That made going cold turkey a whole lot easier.
2. We went to a pretty remote location...the Anirondack Mts. in New York. We stayed in a rustic cabin on Lake George, where it felt like we were in a time warp. The Internet and e-mail seemed very, very far away and very, very unimportant.
3. People like you supported the idea. I felt like I was doing something for all of us!
Was it worth it? Hell. Yes.