Out of Office – Part II

In case you missed last week’s post, allow me to bring you up to speed…

For over 11 years I have never missed a Monday. That’s right – 583 blogs have been published even though major life transitions like getting married, adding two beautiful boys to our family, extreme busy seasons, seasons where writing inspiration waned, and from locations all over the world. I prioritized consistency, and in doing so, putting out fresh content once a week became second nature. It’s a true test of time management and the difference between being merely interested in starting a blog and being committed to delivering on your promise of quality and consistent content. Doing that for more than a decade is a balance of planning ahead, automation, routine, and fulfillment.

This week? I’m on a plane returning from a fantastic week spent in a topical location. But I wasn’t going to miss a Monday – especially since I have quite the record to uphold! I want you to enjoy some inspiring content about managing workflow while on vacation, pausing to enjoy the relaxing rewards of hard work, and setting yourself up for a graceful (not stressful!) return.

Do you see? Consistency is easy when you plan ahead, automate when you can, keep a routine – and above all else – keep your blog fueled by authenticity and inspiration! Enjoy..because I surely will (and have)!

Post-Vacation Panic: Tackling the Mountain of Emails

Any time spent out of the office, whether it’s one day or two months, can be equally overwhelming when we’ve been trained to be ever-present, always accessible, and valued by the speed of our response. While I feel rested and energized from my most recent time offline, I’m now facing the harsh reality that there’s a lot of work to be done upon my return to my typical work schedule. Even with some “inbox cleanup” here and there to weed out the important from the irrelevant messages, it’s been a long time since I’ve seen my inbox look this chaotic. It’s easy and tempting to allow this feeling to overwhelm me to the point of panicking or shutting down, but before I click “refresh” on my email, I’m going to take a deep breath and take a more strategic approach to this mountain of work.

My knee-jerk reaction when looking at a slew of new emails is to quickly click on each one, even just for a second, to first get rid of the awful illuminated look of an unread message. I then make a split section decision as to its priority. Both of these habits are dangerous. First, just because a message is “read” doesn’t mean it’s taken care of. Leaving a bunch of read but unanswered emails in your inbox will make you feel like you’ve accomplished something when really all you did was cover up the blinking red light. Second, it’s hard to tell the priority of a message by simply skimming it. Sometimes the most important information or question comes at the very end. Deleting a message based on its first paragraph is…well, judging a book by its cover.

So instead, my plan is to tackle this mountain step by step, email by email. I’ve been in the game long enough to know when I work most effectively – and it’s by focusing on just one project and seeing it through to completion before beginning another. My backlogged inbox is no different. I need to start at the bottom and handle each message one at a time. Whether this is a major task or a simple click of “delete” for junk mail, I gain nothing by trying to do it all at once. In fact, I only seem to lose time that way.

This brings me to my final post-vacation work strategy which is don’t think you need to do it all right now. I’m going to keep in mind that all of this work didn’t come in overnight and so I should allow myself a reasonable time to catch up. Sure I’ll need to identify those priority messages first and offer responses as efficiently as is reasonable, but this doesn’t mean burning yourself out on your first day back.

So with that, I’m feeling centered, focused, and dare I say slightly excited to see what’s been going on while I’ve been away. I might be eating those words in 24 hours, but I’m about to find out…one email at a time.

And when stress hits, I have more than enough relaxing memories to call upon to carry me through.

How do you handle the adjustment period between vacation and back into a workflow? Share your strategies (or struggles) by commenting below!

2 thoughts on “Out of Office – Part II

  1. Hi Stephanie, First, a kudos on your commitment and sharing your tips. In-box management is such drain on productivity in the office. Let alone out-of-office for extended period of time. I used to use a TRAF method which stood for Trash, Referral, Action, or File on sorting my email. This way, one hopes to focus on the smaller actionable email pile. Even so, it was a chore. Keep up the good work.

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