The 7 Stages of Work After Vacation

What you already knew: There’s 7 stages of grief. What you didn’t know: There’s 7 stages of going back to work after a lengthy vacation.

Here they are:

The 7 Stages of Work After Vacation

Stage 1 – The Dig Out

You sit down at your desk and there’s a minimum of 5 voice messages and 100 emails waiting for you to sift through. 90% of these issues were things that were emergencies last week, but by now no one cares anymore. Despite the fact that most are obsolete, you still have to go through every message. This takes a good hour, and can also include going through the pile of paperwork that was left on your chair, slowly ripping off each missed day from your page-a-day calendar, and checking in on your fantasy baseball team.

Some folks like to start the dig out on the Sunday night before they come back from vacation, but I don’t recommend this. The Dig Out is a mindless exercise perfectly suited for your first Monday morning after vacation.

Stage 2 – The Recap

Here’s a rule of thumb: the better your vacation was, the more people you are going to have to tell about it. Spend the week at home staining your deck? 3 people will ask how your week was. Spend the week in Venice or on an Alaskan cruise? You’ll have a line of people 5-deep all morning long waiting to hear every last detail.

In my opinion you’ve got 2 options:

1 – Lie. No matter what you did, tell people you spent the entire week organizing your closets and recovering from ingrown toenail surgery.

2 – Stand on your desk and tell EVERYONE about your vacation at the top of your lungs. Use a bullhorn if it is not against company policy. Once and done, as I like to say.

Stage 3 – The Commitment to Refocus

At some point on that first morning you’re going to feel free from the burden of work that had built up in your head before vacation. The vacation worked! Your head is clear and your mind is sharp. This company is not going to know what hit them!

When you feel this way, do as much work as possible. What you’re experiencing is so fleeting, it can be classified as an anomaly. Like a magnificent full double rainbow or the aurora borealis, it will be gone before you know it.

This stage lasts anywhere from 10 seconds to 2 hours, but usually no longer, so make the most of it.

Stage 4 – The Long Lunch

Wow, it’s been a good morning hasn’t it? You’ve survived, you’ve dug out, you’ve talked to way too many people, and you’ve even crossed a few tough items off your to-do list.

You know what you deserve? A 2-hour lunch.

Stage 5 – The Wall

Maybe it’s all the food you ate. Maybe it’s the fact that you can’t take the afternoon nap you got used to on vacation. Maybe it’s the realization that you’re job is no different than it was two weeks ago. Maybe it’s everything combined.

Whatever it is, reality just set in on you and you went from world-changer to needing a diaper change. It’s okay if you cry, just do it in the privacy of a bathroom stall.

Stage 6 – The Fire of a Thousand Suns

No sooner have you hit The Wall when things go from bad to worse. Everybody needs something from you at work, your wife just called and said you left the camera in Miami, and you’ve got a developing migraine that might require 4 advil.

Clearly all your co-workers had a meeting last Friday and said, “Let’s bombard him on Monday when he gets back from vacation. But let’s all wait untilĀ  right around 2:30pm to get him. Everybody save your big issues until then.”

Burning. Anger. Seeing Red…

…you close your eyes but all you see is Emperor Palpatine shooting lightning bolts at you out of his fingers, saying, “Give in to your anger!” and you really want to. If Darth Vader walked into your cubicle right now with a contract to join the Dark Side, you would sign it in a heartbeat and then kill an Ewok just for fun.

Stage 7 – The Rut

Is it 4:30pm already? Gee, where did this day go? Did I really just spend 45 minutes reading about The Roosevelt Administration on Wikipedia? Crap. I’m back in the Rut.

So much for turning over a new leaf.

So much for having a super-productive week.

So much for staying recharged and positive after a great vacation.

Welcome back to work.

(We’ll see you tomorrow for another day of the same)

Did I miss any stages here? Has anyone been able to break this viscious cycle? Let us know