• Advice

How to start working again after vacation

"No man needs a vacation so much as the man who has just had one.”

Elbert Hubbard

You just came back from vacation. You're exhausted even though you got more sleep over the weekend than you usually get in a week. You’re jittery and bored at the same time. You aren’t hungry but you keep eating food that’s terrible for you. And all you feel like doing is curling up in a ball and watching a marathon of an only-slightly-better-than-mediocre sitcom, possibly starring Robin Williams.

You are not alone, sad post-vacationer! Turns out you could have a bad case of Post-Travel Depression (PTD). Yes, it's a real thing, and yes, there is something you can do about it:

**1. Take time to catch up with people **

Remember the first thing you did when you walked into your old office after a vacation? You chatted with your coworkers about your vacation. It’s impossible to go straight into work without a solid schmoozing period.

As a freelancer, unless you work in a coworking space, your vacation sharing opportunities can be pretty limited.

Try to call up a friend early in the day on your first day back. If you’re coming back after a holiday you spent with family, call your sister and complain about how terrible Uncle so-and-so was at dinner. Even one or two real-life connections can make you feel like vacation isn’t quite over.

2. Incentivize yourself to plow through your email

There’s nothing that makes me less enthusiastic about post-vacation than hundreds of emails in my inbox. It’s like a giant, slippery, crap-filled wall I have to climb over before I actually start working again. Sorry for the graphic image, but it’s appropriate.

Ease into it: First go through and delete all the promotions, newsletters, and spam. Do not read any of the promotions or newsletters, even if they look interesting. Then take it in chunks. Only work for thirty minutes at a time -- then give yourself a reward. Promise yourself that by the end of the first day, you’ll have put out all the fires so that when work starts the next day, it’ll be easier.

Your mind will be very unruly during this time, logging in to check Twitter and read the news and procrastinate -- much more than usual. Work with your unruly, unfocused mind, not against it. Do short spurts of work and then let it misbehave.

3. Start working on a Tuesday

If you can get away with it (and as a freelancer, it’s more likely that you can), come back to work on anything BUT a Monday. Monday is already a bad enough day. If you start on a Tuesday, you only have 3 more days until another “vacation,” right? That’s easier to cope with.

Instead, have your one Monday task be writing a to-do list for Tuesday so you can jump right in. Making a to-do list is one of those fabulous tasks that make you feel productive without actually being very productive.

4. Bring your vacation into your everyday life

The point of a vacation is not to just have a good time away, but to recharge you for when you come back. You can only do this by making sure your daily life is different because of your vacation.

Here are some ideas:

-Photo browsing: Start easy by looking through your photos, print out a couple, and put them on your desk. Staring at them nostalgically throughout the day is normal and healthy.

-Good memories? Spend part of your first day back just writing them down, even if it’s just in an email to a friend. Recording what happened is crucial to cementing in your mind the impressions and feelings of your vacation, so that they get outside of your head and live “in the real world.”

-Continuing good habits: Did you discover that you enjoy something, like going to art museums or sitting outside before bed? Write down 5 ways you could continue to do those things. Schedule yourself to go to the local museum once a month.

-Make strict quiet time: One of the best parts of vacation is doing nothing, whether that’s staring at the ocean or sitting in a cafe people watching. Enforce a part of each day as designated quiet time. That can mean meditation, reading, writing letters, or just sipping coffee in front of the window.

-Exotic foods: Did you find a new type of food you like? Search it out in your area, and go there your first week back. This will reconnect you to your good memories.

-Family connections: If this was a family/holiday vacation, did you find that spending time with your nieces and nephews or siblings was very rewarding? Get your nieces and nephews to Skype with you regularly. Write your sister an email once a week (pick a day and write it in your calendar!).

5. Start planning your next trip

According to a study published in the journal Applied Research in Quality of Life, the prospect of a future vacation can boost your happiness for up to 8 weeks before your vacation. However, after a vacation, happiness levels quickly return to “normal” levels.

Combat your post-vacation blues by starting to immediately think of where you want to go next. Even making a list of dream locales and more practical options can increase your happiness.

6. Start something new

The excitement of a vacation is really all the new people you see, new things you learn. Beating the post-vacation blues can be a simple as getting your brain to learn more new stuff. Try these:

-Take a class on Skillshare (it costs very little, and the classes are all fun)

-Print out a blank map of the world and try to learn some of the countries

-Watch nature or travel documentaries on Netflix/Hulu

-Go to a networking event in your area

-Pick up a new language, especially the language of the place you just visited. I suggest duolingo, which is free and partially built out of the contributions of the community.

-New clients: If you’re feeling really ambitious, make a goal of sending out at least one new query in your first couple days back. Try it in a “reach” area -- an area of your field that you’ve always wanted to go into, but never tried.

-New eats: Look up a recipe that you tried on vacation. On your first trip to the grocery store, buy the ingredients and cook it for yourself.

We hope these tips help you work after vacation. Anyone else got suggestions? Help a fellow freelancer out!