Ready for a real vacation? Whether “real” means filling each day with new adventures in new places far from home or relaxing in one place nearby, vacation means escaping your routine. Since summer is the popular season for vacation, odds are you’re taking one soon. Please do! I recently returned from an amazing two-week vacation in Germany with a group of fun-loving adventurous women. Maximize the benefit of your vacation by enjoying all aspects of it—the anticipation, real-time experience, and reflection.


But what about your commitment to having a productive summer? No worries. A break from work can be a productivity booster. Time away can bring physical, mental, and spiritual renewal. New ideas often blossom in new surroundings when nurtured by different experiences. You may very likely return with fresh insights and a burst of motivation. But don’t be surprised or dismayed if a mental fog of confusion greets you when returning from your vacation.


Regardless of the many benefits of vacation, which I advocate and practice, I most often return not only with dirty laundry, jet lag, and exhaustion from non-stop going but also with a fuzzy mind around the things I had mastery of before leaving. So frustrating, but reasonable since my vacation mind focused on new and different things. Plus, my vacation routine was intentionally void of work-related triggers!


Even though the post-vacation mental fog around work is expected, without some method for bringing clarity soon this reasonable fog can quickly cloud out your motivation and morph into a full-blown case of back-to-work resistance.


Welcome Back! Memo. This might become your most important vacation prep step.


When you’re confused, not up to speed with the day-to-day workflow, or are experiencing back-to-work resistance, you need a clear set of directions. You need clarity, maybe even step-by-step guidance with minimal decision making. But let’s face it. No one’s going to hand you those longed for, clear directions when you return from vacation. So create them yourself in the form of a Welcome Back memo to you. Make drafting this memo a vacation prep essential!


Fundamentally, this memo is to reacquaint you with your priorities, lessen the back-to-work resistance, and save you hours, days, weeks, maybe even months of frustration from lost work time that can result from the post-vacation mental fog. If this seems ridiculous because you never deal with mental fog, priority confusion, or back-to-work resistance, ignore this and please share your secret!


1. MINDSET REMINDERS: [Use these or craft your own.]

  • Your time off was valuable.
  • Be kind to yourself today.
  • Look for some quick wins today.
  • Set reasonable expectations.
  • Don’t spend all day catching up or expect to be completely caught-up at the end of today.
  • Today’s highest priority is to make tomorrow a “normal” workday, meaning I know what needs to be done and I have the energy and motivation to do it. [Adjust the time expectation to fit the length of your time away. Roughly one day per week gone. A long weekend may only require a few hours for the ramp-up.]


Draft a short paragraph of your top-of-mind ideas and status of your active projects as of the day you leave. If you’re actively engaged in a research/writing project, make very clear notes on the very next topic/area/subject you will start with on your first day back. The more specific and tangible your notes the easier it will be to overcome any resistance. Ideas that were once very clear will get fuzzy with a break so plan for that reality. 


Make three very short lists.

1. Priorities on the horizon—next month or two—that you want to be reminded of.

2. Two-three most important things that need to happen your first week back.

3. Two-three most important things that need to happen your first day back!


If you struggle to meet your own expectations but dependably honor your commitments to others, then commit to completing something for someone that’s due this week. As a motivation boost, you might even leave something unfinished that is due soon after you return. Yes, this is a strategy for intentional procrastination. Be reasonable and make it doable! Warning: This method won’t be helpful if others’ deadlines don’t motivate you.  


Drafting this memo as part of your vacation prep will be quick and easy and pay dividends that far exceed the time invested in creating it. Draft it. Put it precisely where you want to see it when you sit down to work that first day after vacation.