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Aug 13, 2013

How was your summer vacation?

Whether you were roughing it or lying on a beach with a cool drink and a hot book, returning to your desk can be quite the shock.

Where did my life of leisure go? Why isn’t there cut fruit waiting for me on breaks? And what do you mean, I can’t read my Kindle in this meeting?

Americans are a working people; we have and take fewer vacation days than any other developed country. I hope you had the chance to truly leave work behind on your vacation (assuming you actually took a vacation). More than ever, Americans aren’t taking vacations and when we do, we’re still working. In 2012, most workers left nine (9) vacation days on the table. But that’s a different post.

First up: Tackling the Inbox

Since I’m sure you vacationed, it’s time to bring your renewed energy back to the workplace. First up — the inbox.

You may be tempted to declare email bankruptcy and delete your entire inbox. I don’t recommend this route. I do recommend reading from the newest messages back to the oldest.

It might seem counter-intuitive, but sometimes problems are resolved before you get back. No sense in getting into a panic and trying to send out a solution for something that already got resolved. Wait until you’re totally caught up to return any messages. It may not be a ripping bestseller, but attacking that inbox with the same dedication will get you back up to speed in no time.

A new perspective on problems

One of the best things about coming back from a vacation is returning to a problem and having a new perspective on how to solve it. A funny thing happens when you allow your brain a break from work issues: your subconscious works on its own to approach the problems in a new way.

Take that relaxed view and use it to brainstorm ideas for solutions to old problems or processes. You may be surprised by what is ready to be tapped.

Vacation can also remind you of how much you enjoy some of your co-workers. Use the happy familiarity of returning to your work friends to express how much you missed their daily observations.

Everyone likes to be remembered; it’s a solid thing to bring back a box of a local delicacy to share if you went somewhere exotic, or a box of tasty donuts as a thank you for covering your workload while you were away. Be leery of sharing huge vacation-driven epiphanies, though. Those are best confined to a trusted circle instead of replying-all to a company-wide email.

Rejuvenate the workspace

Literally clear the cobwebs from around your desk and take a hard look at your workspace. Recycle those papers, toss extraneous junk taking up space, and clean out your drawers. Vacation has hit the reset button, giving you perspective on what you actually need to perform your job, so shed all the accumulated clutter.

It might take a little adjustment to get back to work after a vacation, but your work is worth your newly freshened attention. Taking the energy your vacation gave you and putting it to work can ease the hard mental shift from leisure to the office, and ultimately make you more productive.

Good luck and pass me a piña colada.

This was originally published on the OC Tanner blog.