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Returning to Reality

Originally published: 01.01.16 by Pete Grasso

The New Year, for most, begins with a certain sense of hope, optimism and great intentions for resolutions of being better at work and in life. Then, unfortunately, reality sets in as you return to work from the holidays.

As much as I love the idea of starting fresh each January with a clean slate, perhaps this isn't the best time to make any grand resolutions.

Whether you took some time to go on vacation or simply spend a few extra days or hours with family or not, your typical routine was no doubt interrupted the past couple of months. Implementing change can be problematic enough on it's own, but now you're suddenly tasked with trying to enact change while getting back into a groove of running a company without holiday breaks.

When I take time away from work, like you, I'm still plugged in (it's difficult not to be with today's technology). Yes, even when I'm not working, I'm working.

In speaking with Ray Isaac, president of Isaac Heating & Air Conditioning, for this month's cover feature (Daily Habits to Make You Happy and Successful), I found out I'm not alone.

When he's on vacation, Ray makes a point of spending an hour each morning going through email before he puts his phone away. He repeats this in the evening as well.

For Ray — and many Type A business owners like him — it's actually less stressful if they know what's going on while away from the office. Setting aside this little bit of time in the mornings and evenings helps him enjoy the rest of the day with family.

Still, even if you stay connected while away from the office, getting back to work after some time off can be difficult.

That first day you return to reality back at the office, you quickly sense a day filled with a whole lot of catching up — sifting through e-mails, listening to voicemails, returning calls and getting filled in on what you may have missed.

Knowing this was inevitable probably made your return a most dreaded event — but it doesn't have to be. I've spoken to many business owners like Ray over the years who have provided me with some tips for returning from a vacation.

Allow for readjustment. If possible, avoid returning from vacation the night before you are due back at work. Instead, come back a day or two early. Use the "buffer" time to check and respond to accumulated voicemail and email messages from home.

Call your management team and ask them for any important updates. When you actually set foot back in the office, you'll already know what to expect.

Re-orient slowly. Unless there is an urgent phone call to make or meeting to attend, spend the first hour at work refreshing your memory about assignments, deadlines and deliverables.

Meet with your team members to catch up on matters you might have missed while you were away. Getting back up to speed systematically will prevent you from feeling overwhelmed.

Create a prioritized to-do list. Rather than tackling all outstanding items at once, prioritize your tasks and focus on the most critical ones first. For example, you would want to finish the notes for a presentation you plan to give at the end of the week before starting to plan a company picnic scheduled three months from now.

Take a midday "mini-vacation." During the first few days back on the job, treat yourself to lunch with a senior manager or a brisk noontime walk. Such breaks will refresh you. You'll return to the office ready to handle your regular workload as well as any crises or emergencies that might arise.

Leave on time. You're coming back after some time off, and you may feel behind at times, but that doesn't mean you have to spend extra hours catching up. Be sure to leave the office when you normally would, otherwise you'll stress yourself out.

The stress of returning to normalcy after the holidays can be a huge detriment to your New Year's Resolutions, quickly derailing even the best of intentions. Use this month to ease back into your schedule, and save the big changes for February.


Pete Grasso is the editor of HVACR Business magazine and the Ahead of the Curve enewsletter, as well as web content editor for and author of the blog Keeping it Simple.


About Pete Grasso

Pete is the former editor of HVACR Business magazine. He has spent his career working in and with trade media, both as a public relations practitioner and as an editor. He gained a great deal of expertise in the B2B arena, within large and medium sized advertising agencies. Be sure to follow Pete on Twitter and connect with him on LinkedIn!


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