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12 ways to catch up on work after vacation

8 min read
Brett Farmiloe

What are the best ways to catch up on work after a vacation?

To help you catch up on work after taking a vacation, we asked CEOs and business leaders this question for their best tips. From asking for help beforehand to blocking out time in your calendar, there are several things you can do to help you catch up on work and return to your normal routine after a vacation.

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12 ways to catch up on work after a vacation:

  1. Ask for help beforehand.
  2. Keep an extra day for yourself.
  3. Clear the decks before your official return.
  4. Check-in with your team first.
  5. Batch your replies to email and team messages.
  6. Use a project management platform.
  7. Create an out-of-office library.
  8. Work remote for a couple of days.
  9. Avoid meetings.
  10. Prioritize two to three critical areas.
  11. Disrupt your normal routine.
  12. Plan and block out time in your calendar.

Let’s get caught up!

10 ways to catch up on work after vacation

1. Ask for help beforehand

Before a vacation, it is always better to ask someone to take your place for a short period. They should be on your team, familiar with your job, and ready to help. They can handle urgent tasks for you and mark the ones that require your approval or expertise as pending until you arrive.

Once you are back, they will send you a brief on what is pending and what is done. You can then prioritize your pending tasks and schedule the rest for later dates. Don't forget to check the done tasks as well; it is important to keep up with all events.

Noura Yousef, Casita

2. Keep an extra day for yourself

Most of us who only have a few weeks of vacation time a year are notorious for trying to cram 21 days into a 7-day vacation; as a result, we end up “relaxing” at maximum speed. That means we usually end up coming home more exhausted and wound up than when we left.

So do yourself a favor the next time you take a vacation and try keeping one day at the end just for you: to get home and unpack without the stress, to decompress, remind yourself where you left all of your meetings and paperwork off, and get your head into the game for going back to work on Monday. You’ll be amazed at how much more productive you’ll feel the next day, how much better you feel, and how much more quickly you’ll be able to catch up.

Vincent Chan, Christina

3. Clear the decks before your official return

One easy way to help you catch up on work after a vacation is to schedule yourself a block of work time before everyone knows you've returned. That way you can take care of housekeeping items and even tackle other tasks without interruption. You'll then be up to speed and ready when other team members start communicating with you upon your official return.

For example, we are an all-remote company, so our main forms of communication are emails and Slack. I've found it extremely helpful to go online the afternoon or evening before my official return from a vacation.

I use that time to review a large number of emails and Slack messages and acquaint myself with the latest updates, which can take at least a few hours. That way I can better plan how to organize the day of my official work return, making me feel less rushed, more productive, and better able to quickly respond to other team members.

Karen Condor,

Quote from Karen Condor

4. Check in with your team first

While it is tempting to dive head-first into your inbox to get as much done on your first day back to the office, it is best to get caught up by interacting with your team and colleagues first. Your inbox might be too overwhelming and out of control but you can control how much information and time you spend with your team getting caught up.

After these brief updates, you can then go to your inbox and filter your messages in order of importance, allowing you to quickly get the most urgent tasks out of the way.

Paul French, Intrinsic Executive Search

5. Batch your replies to email and team messages

Once you’ve processed the initial back-from-vacation pile of emails and messages, one thing is certain: you’ll soon get a flood of replies back to your replies. It can feel like a never-ending cycle.

Here’s one way to tame this cycle and regain your sanity: batch your replies. Schedule discrete times (for example, 9 a.m., noon, and 4 p.m.) to process your inboxes — then get back to your to-do list. This will help you avoid inbox guilt and catch up on real tasks in record time.

Zach Grove, Growth Advisor

6. Use a project management platform

Most people think that project management software works best for virtual offices, but it's an excellent tool to keep track of business in the physical workspace as well. Whether you're an executive or department-level employee, it can be challenging to get up to speed with everything that went on with your team after the vacation.

The convenience of implementing project management tools like Click Up and Asana into your workflow is that team members can document all the major stages of any tasks completed and have them stored within the database for future reference. You'd need only log into the platform and review the project history corresponding to your vacation — and you'd be able to add feedback or notes if necessary.

Brian Nagele, Restaurant Clicks

7. Create an out-of-office library

I keep track of what happens while I'm away by using an out-of-office library. It's merely a few tables in a document. Before I leave, I send it to my team for them to fill with any pertinent information I should be aware of when I return. Simply create a shared document or spreadsheet in whatever app your company uses. Decide what information you want to record, such as the date an event occurred, the scenario, the name of the person who updated the information, and any links. When you get back, you'll know what you missed out on. The best part is that everything is done for you.

Vartika Kashyap, ProofHub

Quote from Vartika Kashyap

8. Work remote for a couple of days

Work remote for a couple of days to recharge your batteries. It provides a distraction-free setting to jot down a “to-do” list, catch up on an overflowing email inbox and prevent you from feeling overwhelmed. It is an underrated way to create a seamless and stress-free transition back to the office after you’ve taken time off.

Jessica Arias, OnPay Payroll Services

9. Avoid meetings

Ask to be excused from meetings on your first day back from vacation. The reason is you'll need the time to focus on your highest priority tasks and to go through your messages. Don't schedule new meetings on your first day back unless they're absolutely necessary. It will take time to review all that you missed. So schedule your time appropriately.

Scott Lieberman, Touchdown Money

10. Prioritize two to three critical areas

Coming back to work after a vacation can be overwhelming, but I suggest that prioritizing two to three critical areas will help you get the job done. From this short list, identify further which one needs immediate attention, and what should be included in your calendar or may be delegated.

This is an effective method for you to get back to your usual grind the soonest and, at the same time, shorten the waiting period of those that may be involved in the work through delegation.

Tristan Harris, Thrive Agency

11. Disrupt your normal routine for a day or two

I've found that the best way to return to work after a vacation is to ignore your usual routine for a day or two. The reality is you will be playing catch up, so there is no use in trying to do a "normal" day. Instead, plan to filter out irrelevant emails, follow up on anything urgent, and plan for the week ahead.

You can set yourself up for success by automating some of this process to take care of itself while you're away. Set up email filters so anything from certain people or departments ends up in folders sorted by priority. This way you can likely go in and delete entire folders of emails after a brief skim, rather than processing emails one by one.

Volodymyr Shchegel, Clario

12. Plan and block out time in your calendar

If you have a lot of work to catch up on after a vacation, one way to make sure you don't fall behind is to start planning and scheduling your time as soon as you get back. Make a list of all the tasks you need to complete, and then block out time in your calendar for each one. This will help you stay on track and make sure you don't forget anything. If possible, try to start working on your most important tasks first so that you can get them out of the way.

Lee Dobson, Bulldog Digital Media

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