I’ve just taken a much needed break, as I do every summer, visiting my family in France. I did a lot of catching up with my family, a lot of swimming (including in the sea-bliss!) a lot of reading, and mostly a lot of just being and relaxing.
In the past, I found returning to work after a break stressful, because of the accumulation of messages and tasks whilst I was away. Every year the weight of the many tasks, combined with the change of pace, and the struggle to return to a “normal” working rhythms meant that I used to feel a lot of pressure. Now I do things differently. I want to share some simple things I do to make returning to work less stressful :
Before the break
Put your holidays in your diary a long time in advance. This way you can plan your work around the breaks. There are 2 main reasons for this: 1) to know your capacity around that time and not over plan a number of unachievable tasks 2) to make sure that you can truly relax (and avoid feeling guilty about not doing work) whilst on holiday. In a previous blog I explained the importance of truly switching off as a solopreneur. This goes a long way in building confidence, being realistic about what you can achieve, and avoid guilt.
Planning ahead means that I sometimes do more work in advance, to make sure that there aren’t major tasks needing to be done during my break, and to plain my income around the break. When you work for yourself, you don’t earn money whilst on holiday and this can be difficult if income is tight. I often launch new courses ahead of breaks, in order to feel content and secure during the break. It also gives me a much needed deadline to complete the course by, which really helps me produce the course content on time. This year I started teaching a course before my holiday and I factored in the break within the course, which gave my students times to practise. It also gives me something driving me forward when I return.
During the break
Make a conscious decision not to do to anything work wise unless it 1) cannot wait 2) It gives you joy and you don’t resent it. This is especially important as, since 2020 there has been numerous occasions where many of us could not be away from home during breaks. I made the mistake to carry on working several times, albeit at a lower pace, and didn’t feel refreshed by the end of the break. I’ve learnt over and over that stepping out of work completely and adopting a different, more relaxed pace of life, is a great source of renewed creativity for everyone.
After the break
Be gentle with yourself. After a change of rhythm it can take a few days before you feel like you are back into the swing of things. The change of pace combined with accumulated tasks can feel stressful and overwhelming.
Allow extra time for planning. It is easy to try and get back into ‘doing’ and losing sight of what is really important. Tune in how you want your month, week or day to feel rather than getting bogged down into lots of tiny little tasks. I find the 3 things model very helpful. When feeling overwhelmed, ask yourself, if I could only do 3 things, what would these things be? Apply the same model for longer term planning as well as shorter term (I do a 3 months, then a monthly, then weekly and daily plan).
Give yourself 2 or 3 days of gently easing back into work. Doing some planning and dealing with the stuff that accumulated whilst you were away. I try to ease gently into my normal work rhythm, at a slower pace than normal. I like to think about it the same way I look at physical fitness: if you had taken a break from running for a couple of weeks, you would restart your training gradually again, and not expect to be able to run a marathon on the first day!
I hope this helps you be kind to yourself, and ease your back from holiday overwhelm. I would love to hear if you have any other tips or suggestions.