An overflowing inbox. A full voicemail. A crisis, or two, or three.
To get physically and mentally into the swing of things on your return, try putting the B.A.C.K. method in place:
1. Big picture
Before getting caught up in the raging river of small details, you will want to begin by catching up on what has happened while you were away. Answer these two questions:
- Is there any recent news regarding your department or company you need to know about?
- What is the status of that major project you were working on when you left?
Although it seems like a short time, a lot can happen over a week or a long holiday weekend. One executive I know came back from a four-day vacation to an email informing him that the company had been sold.
Before you leave, put one or two staff members in charge of preparing a big-picture report to be presented when your return. No staff to delegate to? Ask a co-worker to keep tabs on the happenings at work, and offer to do the same for them the next time they are out on vacation.
What important requests that require action came from your boss, peers, staff, or clients while you were gone? Make a list in order of priority, and then email or call each person to:
- Acknowledge that you have received their request
- Provide a timeline of when it will be handled
- Inform them who the item has been delegated to or where the request should be redirected
Remember, for every day you were gone, it takes an hour to catch up. This means a 7-day holiday away will require seven hours' worth of work upon your return -- just to catch up. You may not be able to get everything done within the first two days back, but by scheduling the actions you need to take over the next week, you will get it all done.
While you were away, it's likely a ton of snail mail, email, and phone calls piled up. Not all of these incoming communications warrant dropping everything and responding right away. Try organizing your communications into the following priorities:
- Handle right away.
- Can wait a few days.
- Handle next week.
The first one or two days back, respond to the first group. Schedule the second group for your third and fourth day back, and put the last group off until the following week.
4. Keep taking breaks
You will be more focused and effective if you can avoid getting stressed and overwhelmed on your first few days back. One practical way to do this is to force yourself to take a morning, lunch, and afternoon break on your first few days back. Studies show that taking a few breaks at work gives the brain a chance to take the equivalent of a cat nap and return to the tasks at hand more focused and refreshed.
Ultimately, it's the simple things -- a short walk to Starbucks, a few well-placed phone calls, a schedule of prioritized to-do's -- that keep the stress of getting back from ruining all the relaxation from your time away.