Mar 19

How to Stay Motivated When You Have Vacation Brain

I’ve got vacation on the brain.

In just four days, I’ll be on a plane to sunny Florida—and then on a ship cruising through Mexico. I’ve already booked my excursions and thought about all of the excitement and downtime this one-of-a-kind adventure will offer. I get to swim with dolphins (a bucket list item), snorkel and scuba dive, and even learn how to salsa dance. Did I mention that the temps are expected to be in the 80s?

But—I still have four days. Four days to put in the time, do the work, and give clients and my team the attention they deserve. And while I have had some low points in my level of motivation throughout the last week, I’ve managed to keep myself on track and my projects moving forward.

Although, I’ve done it, it’s not been easy. At our office, there is a larger-than-life calendar hanging on the wall next to my desk. We put sticky notes on days that have scheduled client events, important celebrations for our team and when someone is planning to be out of the office. Nice and bold, a yellow sticky note placed on March 23 reads, “Katelyn out” – only to be followed by another on Monday, March 26 with an arrow demonstrating my absence for the rest of the week.

About a month ago, my colleague Michaela left for two weeks to visit Cape Town, South Africa. Upon her return, Mary Ann flew out to Florida for a working vacation and some sunshine. Once I return from my trip (let’s not talk about that yet), Holly will be heading out for an adventure of her own.

So as springtime is upon us, it’s likely you’ll be heading out on your vacation at some point, too. Here are a few tips on how to stay motivated ‘til your plane takes off:

Plan, plan, plan

The great thing about vacation is that you know when you’re leaving. You know the last day you’ll be in the office, up to the very second you assume you’ll be walking out. While it’s important that we don’t get consumed by thinking about vacation, it’s critical that we make plans for it—and I don’t mean what drinks you plan to order once you arrive.

If you know you have two weeks/one week/three days left in the office, take a look at your to-do list. What needs to be accomplished before you walk out the door? Do any of your colleagues need to be looped in so they can keep moving things forward? Are there items that can wait—those more long-term goals?

Before we go any further, let’s make one thing clear: don’t dump last-minute work on colleagues. If you work out an agreement with a colleague that they are willing and have the capacity to keep things moving forward while you’re out, that’s great! But, it’s not appropriate to throw a to-do list at one of them while you’re walking out the door. Make sure you put your out-of-office email message on when the time comes, and before pointing messages or phone calls to a colleague, ensure they are comfortable being your backup—and that they’ll be in town.

Once you get the logistics worked out, make a plan according to order of priority and get moving. After all, if you want to be able to relax on the beach, a major part of that is ensuring your to-do list is in a good place when you head out on your adventure.

Keep your to-do list heavy

I know this seems like a contradiction since it’s important to make sure loose ends are tied up before heading out (see above), but if you’re anything like me, motivation stems from a long to-do list.

I thrive on having a multi-page list of tasks and having to prioritize them. It keeps me going and focused. While it might seem nice to have just a handful of things on your list your final week, it’s not going to help you stay motivated—all that means is more time daydreaming about your future journey or that bathing suit you just have to have.

Ultimately, it’s important that you aim to keep things at the pace you thrive on—just make sure you dust off your prioritization skills so when the last day before your vacation comes, you’re in a good spot.

Do what you would on a normal week

I know it’s hard, but it’s important to do everything you can to act as if it’s just another normal week (I know – do as I say, not as I do). Don’t even think about checking the weather in your destination or online shopping during lunch for those last-minute items that you forgot.

All too quickly, the internet can turn into a rabbit hole. One minute you’re checking the weather in Cozumel for Wednesday and the next you’re buying three pairs of sunglasses because, well…you might need them. Take your normal lunch breaks, go for your normal runs, show up to your weekly league—this will help you stay on routine. Don’t run errands associated with your trip during a break in workday; save those types of things for the weekend. It’ll keep your mind on track with your responsibilities and what you need to get accomplished.

Vacation is necessary and critical for recharging and refocusing. We should all be encouraged to use the time we are given to relax and revive (even if it’s a staycation). But, before we do, it’s important that we keep our eyes on the prize—our teams and clients who are depending on us.

If we can do that, our teams will be set up for success once that last email gets sent for the week—and in return, we can enjoy sipping our cocktails on the beach.




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