By: Lynne King Smith
I’m not a pilot, but I am a frequent flyer, and every time I land, I can never be certain of how the plane will meet the runway.
Sometimes we seem to drop quickly and hit the ground with bumps and knocks, finally coming to a quick stop that requires a little holding on. Other times, it’s as if we’re almost floating, and the wheels hit the ground softly. It’s more like a butterfly landing gently on a flower instead of a massive machine going from 500 miles per hour to zero in a few seconds.
I’m sure there are many factors that go into how the landings go, but I do know that I feel a sense of awe when it’s the calm and floaty kind.
Returning to work after time off requires a landing as well. And just like with planes, all too often, it feels bumpy, fast, and sudden. If the point of time-off is to get rested and refreshed, consideration about the return seems just as important as the leaving.
We spend a significant amount of time (especially most women) planning for the exit. Pre-planning work, finishing up projects, leaving instructions for those who will fill in while we’re out, pet care, kid care, house sitters, food for those we may be leaving behind, so there’s an incredible amount of work to do just to get out the door and on that plane.
We do it all so that we can truly rest, play, and detach without anxiety or stress about what’s going on at home. However, what if we gave the same thought and planning to our return?
Here are my favorite ways to ensure a soft landing after precious vacation time!
Add a Buffer Day (or 2)
For many years, my husband and I believed in stretching out the vacation time as long as possible, often returning late on the night before we head to work the next morning. This left us very little time for resting, catching our breath, and resetting our minds for the new week.
More recently, we love to add what I call a buffer day – it’s at least a day (more if there’s jetlag) between returning home and returning to work. I don’t do much activity, but it does give me time to reset, unpack, get food, and mostly, prepare my mind for a good return.
“Coming down” from vacation can be pretty rough for some. Rather than focusing on being sad that vacation is over and dreading returning to work, a little gratitude goes a long way.
Be grateful for the time and money you earned to take the trip. Savor the memories you made. Remember what you love about your home and where you live. Look forward to seeing the people you work with that you may have missed. Get excited to see your pets or others who were left behind. Treasure the feeling of your own home – and bed.
Clear Your Schedule on Day 1
Whenever possible, keep your first day back free from meetings and scheduled calls. It’s tempting to offer these times up when you know you’re going to be gone – but a day that’s free of obligations allows for great catch-up and a softer landing with adjusting to the workday after the free schedule on vacation.
Trust Your Team
You’ve done your best to prepare for your vacation and set things up to run smoothly in your absence. You’ve provided clear instructions and left things in good hands. Trust that your team can handle things while you’re gone and resist the urge to check in. Seeing things running smoothly will give you confidence in your team and allow you to truly relax while you’re out.
Go to Bed Early
I love my bed – even when staying at beautiful hotels or sleeping with ocean breezes, there’s nothing like my own bed to come home to. So, I look forward to getting between the sheets, and even if I’m not tired, I spend time reading until I drift off. Even an extra hour of sleep makes getting up on time the next day so much easier.
Temporarily Delete Work Apps
This didn’t use to be an option (I remember beepers!), but now, most of us are accessible 24/7. Do yourself a favor and remove the temptation of work apps like Slack and email. Take a much-needed break from the constant checking and notifications and give yourself some real time away.
Process The Past Year (if you have the time/energy!)
This is a big one for me. I find that if I can take some time on vacation – even if it’s just a couple of hours – to process the past year, it’s so much easier to return with a clear mind. Take the time to reflect on your major wins, the projects you struggled with, and the different ways you surprised yourself this year. Once you’ve cleared your mental inbox, ask yourself, “what can I do to make next year even better?”
Slowing down the return is like landing the plane softly. I’m so sad when I hear folks talk about hating getting back to work or having a rough transition from vacation. Give the soft landing a try, and let me know in the comments how it works for you!