Sunday, July 05, 2009

Avoiding Post-Vacation Chaos

Tip of the Week, June 28, 2009

Going on vacation is a delight: you get the chance to relax, play, and escape from your normal life for a while. Less delightful is the return from vacation, with stacks of mail to deal with, suitcases to unpack, and the realities of everyday life to face. There may not be a cure for the disappointment that accompanies the end of a great week away, but there are things you can do to make your re-entry less chaotic and less painful. Here's how to keep post-vacation chaos at bay.

Give yourself time to reacclimate
I've made the mistake far too often of scheduling a client or other work obligation the day after I get back from a trip--and sometimes the day of my return. As a result, I'm tired, distracted, and generally unsettled, knowing that I haven't had the chance to get back into the swing of things post-vacation. I've now vowed to give myself more time to reacclimate.

If at all possible, schedule some downtime the day after your return from a trip, or, at the very least, keep the second half of the day open if you come back in the morning or early afternoon. Trying to jump right back into work, school, or other energy-intensive obligations will leave you tired and flustered, especially if you're dealing with any sort of jet lag. A free day will give you time to get settled and prepare to face the world again.

Get as much done as you can before you leave
Another way of easing your re-entry is to take care of as many tasks and obligations as you can before you head out on vacation. Aim to empty your Inbox at work, achieve a comfortable level of organization at home, and tie up any loose ends that are likely to eat at you during your trip (or grow into bigger problems once you return).

It's also smart to identify things that can cause post-vacation scrambles--such as bills due the day after you return--and take care of them beforehand. Having to handle urgent tasks immediately after you get back from a relaxing trip is a sure way to kill any residual calm you might be feeling.

Plan for basic home maintenance while you're away
If you'll be gone for more than a few days, you'll probably make plans for a friend or neighbor to bring in your mail and water your plants while you're away. (A gentle reminder: having a stack of uncollected mail or a lawn strewn with newspapers is a clear sign to potential criminals that you're not home.) You might also consider some other basic home maintenance, such as having your lawn mowed and having the house cleaned--assuming, of course, that you have service providers you trust to be in and around your home when you're not there. You'll not only come back to fewer chores to handle, you'll also keep your home looking more lived-in.

Unpack as soon as possible after you return
Finally, spend a few minutes unpacking your suitcases and getting them and their contents put away as soon as you can after your return. Unless I've come back very late at night (and even sometimes when I have), I try to unpack my bags within an hour of arriving home. Doing so helps me feel more settled much more quickly, and it also helps prevent stress-inducing clutter in my bedroom and living room.

Unpacking is a snap if you take a few minutes while packing to separate out dirty laundry; simply dump the laundry into the hamper as soon as you open your suitcase. And if you've folded your clothes while packing, putting them back where they belong will take no more than a matter of minutes.

This summer, put some of these post-vacation tips into practice so you can enjoy a less stressful return and can let the calm of your time away linger just a bit longer.

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