Tips For Adulthood: Managing Re-Entry After A Vacation

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

Re-entry following a vacation is trying at the best of times. You come back to “normal life” with looming deadlines, piles of unwashed laundry and all those things you really did mean to finish – but didn’t quite get to – right before you left. (Not to mention that fresh take on life you developed while travelling that you’re darn well going to start implementing…now.)

Toss in some jet lag and – if you’re me, about 10 gazillion bags worth of purchases you made at Target – and it’s a recipe for disaster.

Which is why – having just returned from a two and a half week vacation to the U.S. yesterday – I decided that this time, I’d really work consciously not to make re-entry the agonizing, adrenaline-fuelled stress-fest that it usually is in my life.

Well, I’m pleased to report that on day five of the Good Lord’s Year 2011…something I resolved to do differently in the new year actually worked.

Here are five ways to manage re-entry after a vacation:

1. Shower First. Pay no attention to that whole soap-dodging trend. It’s amazing what a shower can do to wake up the senses. Make sure you do it as soon as you get home, even if you’ve already taken a shower that day. A shower – plus a good, strong hot cup of coffee – are, I am convinced, the foundation for a successful re-entry launch.

2. Make Piles. I’m a big believer in lowering your expectations. Once you’re clean and caffeinated, the single best thing you can do for yourself upon re-entry is not to take on too much that very first day. You’ll exhaust yourself. Instead, what I’d recommend is making piles:  bills to pay…holiday cards to answer…dry-cleaning that’s accrued during your trip.You don’t have to actually *do* any of these things. But just putting them in the right piles will contribute enormously to your piece of mind knowing that they will, eventually, get done.

3. Fill In Your Calendar. Another small but not over-whelming task you can assign to yourself on that very first day back from a trip is to fill in the dates on your calendar (or “diary” as we say over here in the ‘hood.) Much like making piles, inputting your daughter’s swim class schedule, noting the next few book club meetings and (hopefully) setting aside a few date nights out with your partner can go along way towards making you feel in control of your life, before you actually step in to control it. And the beauty of this task is that it can be executed in a near-somnolent state.

4. Set In Motion One Big Thing. This may sound contradictory with points (2) and (3) but it doesn’t have to be. You know how we all have those giant, endless to-do lists that contain a small array of intractable items that never, ever make it off ground zero? While you’re wandering around your house in a bleary-eyed state after a vacation, take action on one of those babies – the really hard ones. You don’t need to resolve it that very first day. But even if it’s just about taking one small step to activate action on said item, you’ll feel so much better. In my own case, I decided yesterday that even though I’d been avoiding it for…um, like four months…I was going to defrost my refrigerator. Yes it was a pain in the neck. Yes, I had to sacrifice my favorite brand of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream to the cause (Imagine Whirled Peace, in case you’re wondering.) But the prospect of opening the refrigerator in 2011 and *not* seeing an iceberg befitting March Of The Penguins? Priceless.

5. Open Your Mail Last. While it can be awfully tempting when you’ve been away from home for a while to open up all of your mail right away, it’s a terrible idea. Mail – whether it’s personal, business or just a doctor’s appointment – is deeply distracting. You get caught up in the photo of someone else’s cute kids. You learn that you didn’t get that job you applied for. You start reading all about the latest changes to your retirement plan. Do yourself a favor and get the small stuff done first. And then reward yourself by reading your mail last when you can really concentrate. Ditto Email. Trust me.

Happy re-entry.

And Happy 2011.

Image: – Mail Day!! – by Warm n’ Fuzzy via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

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  • Reply Patricia

    January 5, 2011, 5:51 pm

    Well, I always open my mail first and then take a good long bath in my fabulous old bathtub. The rest of the list looks mighty similar.

    This year I am having a bit of a different response to the end of vacation. This was just a blogging vacation, writing vacation…I did not go anywhere except to take daughter’s shopping and I took care of puppy and all the cooking and cleaning while the whole group went cross country skiing and relaxed. I am feeling like I need a vacation, just to do nothing, well puppy care. I have not taken a break until the last 12 days of 2010..Maybe I just need to do that!

  • Reply Jean

    January 5, 2011, 7:33 pm

    Well done is so hard to resist all that and I am a big convert of the not opening any non essential mail first! that used to careen me off in the wrong direction every time! Hope you had a super time stateside : )

  • Reply Patricia

    January 5, 2011, 7:57 pm

    I find that in “every day life” it is best to get all the little stuff done first. Somehow, for me, the small stuff is too distracting to concentrate on the big stuff. This is especially true at work…

  • Reply Daryl Boylan

    January 5, 2011, 9:35 pm

    I would find the hold-mail-opening difficult, but it’s probably a good idea. The “1 big thing” approach is terrifying, but also probably good. Personally, I’d skip the shower, but to each her own. My piles tend to get mixed up, alas. Makes dates – yes!!!

  • Reply Kris O'Connor @Krazy_Kris

    January 6, 2011, 4:09 pm

    That’s funny. I actually spent a few hours cleaning through the piles before I left. And a couple batching, sorting, prioritizing, grouping my ridiculous todos. It was a great exercise actually because I cleared my head of clutter & gave my brain permission to DISENGAGE over the break. And yes, ditch the email and mail for at least half of the day. Good luck!

  • Reply Elizabeth

    January 7, 2011, 1:48 pm

    All good advice, even if you’re not coming back from vacation, but emerging from a week or more of children home from school all day, visiting relatives, lots of presents and lots of cooking.

  • Reply Elizabeth

    January 7, 2011, 1:49 pm

    P.S. I particularly like the part about filling in the calendar… always makes me feel a little less crazed to know what’s on the horizon.

  • Reply Cecilia

    January 7, 2011, 3:59 pm

    Love this! And I read it with the intention of applying this to my daily life (rather than a vacation re-entry). I hear you on #1 (showering first). I work from home and it is so hard to prioritize….the only thing I avoid doing is filling up my calendar – stresses me out.

    Have a great new year!

  • Reply Deidre Chamales Merritt

    January 10, 2011, 1:03 pm

    Delia- Love this post! The checking of the mail and voice mail totally get my attention when I walk through the door, never mind all the email that has piled up in my inbox. Definitely need to prioritize my re-entry strategy – this post helps to break it down :)

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