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5 Ways to Restore Your Productivity After a Vacation


Vacations are so relaxing. Even if you only had a few days’ holiday, it can be hard to recover momentum. But you can’t stay in vacation mode forever; your real life is waiting! Fortunately, there are ways to make the transition easier.

Check out these five tips for getting back into work mode after a break.

1. Commemorate Your Vacation

vacation photo post on Facebook

Making a record of your holiday helps you start thinking about it as something that’s over. A good way to do this is to make a social media album of your pictures, captioning each one with your memories.

When you travel, it’s a good idea to pick up a souvenir, even a small one. This helps you support the economy of your destination. Plus, when you get home, you’ll have a nice piece of vacation to keep at your desk.

2. Make a Plan for Success

planner with coffee
Estée Janssens/Unsplash

The contrast between the ease of vacation mode and the grind of work mode can make it feel impossible to switch. It’s even tougher if work piled up while you were away. A SMART plan is the cure for an overwhelming to-do list.

SMART is the golden standard for achieving your goals, big or small. If your goals are SMART, you’ll have a clear path forward, and the list won’t seem as intimidating. As you make a plan to tackle your tasks, ask if each step is:


  • Specific. Plan to tackle things one part at a time. For instance, “Create a draft” rather than “Write the report.”
  • Measurable. This is how you can tell if you completed the task or not. “Exercise” is too vague, but “do 50 push-ups” is measurable!
  • Actionable. Avoid vague buzzwords and figurative language. You don’t need to “synergize the team,” you need to “call a meeting to discuss workplace communication.”
  • Realistic. Don’t bite off more than you can chew! Be careful not to overestimate how much you can do in a day.
  • Timely. Make sure to schedule a time for each task. Using a to-do list app that integrates with your digital calendar makes this easy.

3. Use Breaks Strategically

Cold Turkey Blocker on the Pomodoro setting

You can’t expect yourself to jump straight back into a 9-5 if you’ve been living the easy life for the last week or so. Use a gentler time management system for your first couple of days back. Then increase your focus time bit by bit until you’re back to normal.

Pomodoro site blockers force you into focus mode by blocking distractions. The Pomodoro timer makes them flexible about focus duration. Try starting with a standard 20-minute focus block, with 10-minute breaks. Only for your first day, though.

For the rest of your first week, shrink the breaks to five minutes. 20 minutes of focus with five-minute breaks is considered standard for this method. From there, gradually increase the Pomodoro as your focus improves.

4. Love Your Job Again

person happy at their desk working
Csaba Balazs/Unsplash

To lessen the contrast between work and play, carry a positive attitude toward your work. If you already love your job, take a moment to reflect on what makes it great. If you don’t love your job, it’s time to find some silver linings.

Try using a gratitude journal app for your first few weeks back. This helps remind you that there are good things outside of vacation, too. This is a kind of journal where, at the end of each day, you list a few things you feel grateful for.

Your gratitude will likely start simple, like “I’m glad I have a paycheck.” But the exercise trains you to look for good things around you, and gain a more positive outlook. Maybe you have a coworker who makes you smile, or the experience is going to look good on your resume.

5. Don’t Work Off the Clock

Time blocking separating the work day from free time

When you’re done with work, stop working. When you keep work confined to your working hours, it lets you hang onto some relaxation in your off-time. It also helps reassert the sense of control and structure that vacations often lack.

If you want a successful return to the office, leave your projects at your desk. Don’t continue puzzling over workplace problems in your off-time, either. If you work from home, keeping your workday bounded is even more important.

Without the physical separation of an office, it’s easy for work to invade your personal life. Use reminder apps and time blocking to set limits on your work hours.

Hit the Ground Running

With a good plan and the right attitude, you’ll be back in work mode before you know it. Work mode doesn’t have to mean being bored and tired, either. Think critically about the work you do, the place you do it, and the people you answer to. This is key to loving your job again.

A man cheerfully working in his office
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