Spending time outside the office helps us to recover from stress and should recharge our batteries. We all NEED vacation to do our job well. But have you ever felt that your time off didn’t leave you recharged and ready to go? I definitely have. Here are four tips on how you to make sure you get the most out of your time away.

Here are my personal four tips:

  1. Distance yourself from everything work related
  2. Listen to your needs and focus on relaxation
  3. Return to your hobbies
  4. Build in a buffer day

1. Let go

Distancing yourself from your work while on vacation seems obvious to some people, but others might find it difficult to let go. But the most important thing to do as soon as you leave the office, is to actually leave the office. This usually means not to check your emails, not taking phone calls and also not thinking about work. But since some of you might fear  being overwhelmed by emails when you return, try to at least reduce the time spent checking your mails to once a day for less than an hour (or every other day).

Having an out-of-office-reply similar to this one “I am currently on vacation until xxx. Your email will not be forwarded, but I will get back to you as soon as I can…” might help to lower expectations of emails senders and helps me to take time to reply when I get back. If your office has the capacity to reply to your emails while you are gone, even better. 

Above all, don’t let yourself be consumed by negative thoughts about work. Feeling guilty about not working is the worst thing to do on vacation. 

2. Actually relax!

Make sure that your vacation plan reflects your need to relax. If you find backpacking bothersome, long stretches on a crowded bus stressful or you have a fear of flying, then try to plan your vacation without these stress factors. Listen to your needs during the planning. If you feel like reading at the beach for hours and really just turning off your brain, a short car/ train ride to the Ostsee or nearest beach/lake might be relaxing enough without having to fly 8 hours to a far off destination. For others, rigorous exercise or adventure might be just what they need to awake their senses. Basically, just do whatever it is that relaxes YOU. 

Also if you are traveling with friends, your partner or your family, make sure to not sacrifice your own needs to please the rest of the group. Be honest about what you need and take the time to get that. 

3. Do something YOU love

Do you love painting? Do you enjoy baking or cooking? When is the last time you have solely focused on your hobbies? Do you even remember if you have a hobby? Vacation can be a great time to get back into something you enjoy, but hardly have the time for in your busy normal routine.If gardening, building furniture or playing basketball is your thing, find a way to integrate that in your time off. It will not only help you relax and tune out negative thoughts about work, it will also help you trigger your creativity and ability to widen your horizon.

4. Include a buffer day

In case you manage to not read your emails on vacation and you don’t want to be overwhelmed when you get back, try to include a buffer day in your planning. Return one day earlier, don’t got back to the office just yet, but read your emails at home, decide which ones are important and create a good plan for you to start your week with. This way you can actually get to the office and not feel overwhelmed by everything you missed, but might be able to keep the warm happy feeling after a vacation for a little while longer. 

Now let go and enjoy!