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Mastering the Art of Re-Entry: The Key to a Less-Stressful Return from Vacation

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Do you have any vacations planned this summer?  Summer is here and so I truly hope you do.  Stephen Covey coined the phrase, “Sharpening the saw,” many years ago and that age-old wisdom applies even more today than when he first wrote about it over thirty years ago.  A few times we have released blogs in the Rhythms of Work-Life Blend.  In fact, it is required reading for all our new team members.  Taking time off is essential to live a high-performance life.

But I have noticed a disturbing trend amongst my peers and team members.  They are taking time off, but about a week into their return, they comment, “that is so far in the rearview mirror because I am so far behind that I am working twice as hard to catch up.”  It saddens me because the underlying belief seems to be then what’s the use of even taking time off?  We live in a time with so much technology that the speed of things has only increased the volume of work output that needs to be vetted, reviewed, improved and the systemic impacts of creating other problems as work is created increase in velocity.  In other words, the world is just speeding up and the work will never be done.  So if you stop for a week the world does not.

What do you do with such a daunting dilemma because the solution is not to avoid taking time off?

Vacations are essential for recharging and rejuvenating ourselves, offering a much-needed break from the stresses of work. However, many leaders overlook an important aspect of the vacation experience: the re-entry phase. Returning to a deluge of emails, pending tasks, and overflowing schedules can quickly nullify the benefits of time off, leaving us feeling overwhelmed and defeated. It's time to break free from this vicious cycle by incorporating a crucial new competency: planning your re-entry.

The Importance of Preparing for Re-Entry

Just as we carefully plan and anticipate our vacation, it is equally important to allocate time for a smooth re-entry process. Neglecting this crucial step can lead to wasted hours, increased stress levels, and the feeling of being behind before you even get started. By acknowledging the significance of re-entry planning, leaders can ensure a seamless transition back into work, maximizing their time off and maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

Scheduling a Re-Entry Day

To address the challenges associated with re-entry, it is essential to schedule a dedicated day solely for catching up. This day acts as a buffer, allowing you to sort through emails, review missed updates, and organize your priorities. By intentionally setting aside time to handle these tasks, you can ease into your work routine gradually and avoid feeling overwhelmed.

Here are some practical steps to implement a successful re-entry day:

  1. Inform colleagues and stakeholders: Before leaving for vacation, communicate your plans to your team and key stakeholders, explaining that you will dedicate your first day back to catching up. This sets clear expectations and helps manage others' expectations.
  2. Out-of-office message extension: Extend your out-of-office message to include an extra day after your scheduled return. This informs people that you are easing back into work and will respond to their messages accordingly.
  3. Prioritize tasks: Identify urgent and critical tasks that need immediate attention upon your return. Address these first, ensuring that any essential matters are dealt with promptly.
  4. Clear your inbox: Begin by scanning your inbox, deleting irrelevant emails, and responding to urgent ones. Prioritize messages that require immediate attention, delegating or scheduling less critical tasks for later.


Planning your re-entry after a vacation is a new and necessary competency in today's fast-paced work environment. By allocating a dedicated day to catch up, leaders can effectively manage their workload, maintain a healthy work-life balance, and avoid the post-vacation blues. Just as we carefully plan our time away, we must recognize the importance of a smooth transition back into work. Incorporating a re-entry day into our vacation plans allows us to take full advantage of our time off, ensuring we return with a refreshed mindset and the ability to hit the ground running. Embrace this practice, and you'll find yourself more productive, less stressed, and better able to enjoy the benefits of both work and play.


Chris Comeaux
President / CEO of Teleios Collaborative Network




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