Even though you were tempted, you didn’t open up your email while you were on vacation. Now you’re afraid that your mailbox may explode with all of the emails inside. You’re wondering if maybe you should have checked your email while you were away. You had a great time away from work. Your mind is full of ideas that you would like to implement when you go back to the office.

But you’re also hoping that you won’t have an overwhelming amount of work waiting for you.

What can you do to be productive again? Here are a few ways you can get back on track. 

First, the key is to plan ahead. Being productive after vacation starts before you leave. Start slowly by giving yourself some space. If you did not plan before you went on vacation, plan right now. Stop and take a moment. A plan—even a simple plan—will allow you to be proactive instead of reactive.

One of my bosses would schedule an extra day in his calendar after his vacation to protect his day and to ease back into the workplace. He would still go to work on that day and talk to his co-workers to see what important items were missed. This approach allowed him to get back into rhythm. Then he could go into his email inbox and prioritize which items would get his time, energy, attention and money (T.E.A.M.).

After you work on those items, in your email inbox sort the messages chronologically. The most recent emails first. Nine times out of ten the older items are no longer relevant.

If you still are overwhelmed or not sure where to start, you can be like my friend Cyril who dumps all of his new emails in the delete folder. If the item is important, the sender will likely send you another email.

Don’t forget to look at ideas you documented during your time away. Put that information into your productivity system. And don’t forget to check your photos on your phone.

Look at the new habits you formed while on vacation. Your time off likely led to the development of new habits. Want to keep those habits? Figure out what triggers your actions. Also, give yourself the space needed for new habits. Walking ten thousand steps does not fit well when you are going from one meeting to another. Walking during your lunch hour or before you go to work is likely a much better fit.  

Here are a few more things to consider:

  • Start a checklist for the steps you took when you started your day.
  • Figure out how much capacity you have for the rest of your week after your first day back at work.  This will empower you to manage your expectations as to how much work you will accomplish.
  • Consider your jetlag when you are traveling through different time zones. Your capacity will be considerably lower in the coming days.
  • The mantra “Priority is Power” also applies after your vacation.
  • Go through your waiting list for your holiday. Take the necessary actions on your action list for the coming week.
  • See you incubation list and decide which projects or actions you will make active after vacation. Put projects in your Master List. And put any necessary small micro-actions on your action list. During your time away, you stepped away from your projects. Restarting a project is particularly difficult if you do not know what to do.
  • Go through your Master List and prioritize your projects on your list. Divide your capacity on projects with a priority this week.
  • Making decisions requires a lot of mental energy, so be sure that you have enough rest after vacation.

You won’t be able to apply all of these ideas and concepts immediately. However, if you just try a few of them, you will see notable progress. Build from there and keep growing. Soon you will see you have extra time to spend on more vacation.