Space travel is a lot like your summer vacation. There is a ton of preparation, and at any minute an emergency could scuttle your plans, but finally you’re ready to go. You take off (on holiday) and after a moment of panic you are floating calmly in the tranquility of space (or the Poconos. This is your vacation, you pick). All is peaceful and serene until it’s time for re-entry. That’s the most dangerous time, because if you are off course even a little bit you may burn to a cinder before you reach home.
Too many people don’t enjoy their vacations because all they can think about is how painful re-entry will be. How many emails await them? What fresh hell lies on that first conference call? For those who work remotely and are used to being connected 24/7 it can be even worse because odds are you never really cut yourself off and spent half your leisure time thinking about work and connected to the job. Here’s how NOT to burn up on re-entry.
Plan your re-entry before you take off.
While “stuff” happens when you’re away, try to schedule your time the first day back so that you have the opportunity to be mindful about setting priorities and being of use to your teammates. Give yourself time to read through your emails (you might have to sacrifice the night before, that’s up to you) and develop a logical priority rather than start at the bottom of your inbox and work your way up. Take control of your calendar and share it, or it will take control of you.
Make sure “comms” are working and your teammates and customers know your plans.
Using generic status updates are better than nothing, but adding a note like “I will be available after 10 am on Monday,” tells people, not just when you’ll be back, but when you will be available to them. Send a Slack note or Email to the team announcing your arrival back in the land of the living AND when and how you’ll be of service to them.
Your first point of contact should be “Mission Control.”
Assigning priority to tasks and catching up on team news (and separating fact from gossip) is a big part of your first day back after an absence. Block time with your manager to get updated on what’s new and talk about what awaits you. She may have a different sense of how to prioritize your work. If you are the manager, talk to whoever you appointed to hold things down and get the lay of the land.
Use a checklist.
One of the most important things an astronaut does is follow a checklist for every procedure, even if they think they know it. When you get back, take the time to list what’s important or time sensitive before you start work. It’s easy to get sucked into the “urgent but not important” maelstrom and that’s when all the benefits of your vacation vanish like a meteorite—destroyed on entering the atmosphere.
Give yourself permission to go slowly.
You are back, and you want to be of value to your teammates. But if you have really relaxed, it will take a while to get back into work mode. Unless it is a true emergency (and someone else’s hair being on fire may not be YOUR problem) be methodical about your work until you find your rhythm.
North Americans get less vacation time than any other people working in industrialized countries. If we waste what little leisure we get by expending unnecessary effort, or negate the positive effects of our off-time within 20 minutes of showing up to work, we aren’t doing ourselves or our employers and teammates any favors.
Strap yourself into your vacation-rocket, enjoy the ride, control re-entry and you’ll have used your time well and probably had more fun in the process.
So, welcome back to work.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Co-Founder and Product Line Manager
Wayne Turmel is the co-founder and Product Line Manager for the Remote Leadership Institute. For twenty years he’s been obsessed with helping managers communicate more effectively with their teams, bosses and customers. Wayne is the author of several books that demystify communicating through technology including Meet Like You Mean It – a Leader’s Guide to Painless & Productive Virtual Meetings, 10 Steps to Successful Virtual Presentations and 6 Weeks to a Great Webinar. His work appears frequently in Management-Issues.com.
Wayne, along with Kevin Eikenberry, has co-authored the definitive book on leading remotely, The Long-Distance Leader: Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership.