Ever get home from a business trip or vacation and just feel… off? I just got home from two World Cup races managing a cyclocross team and all the logistics of that, plus CrossVegas PLUS Interbike as part of the Bicycling crew. Add to that some interviews with places like Performance Bike plus normal deadlines for other places I write for, and it was a freaking BUSY 12 days on the road. But that’s actually not what I wanted to write about today. I was chatting with a team manager a couple months ago about ‘re-entry’ to life after races. We both agreed that race weeks are brutal and you’re just insanely busy the entire time, but coming home can be just as challenging. You get back and have to jump into normal life, catch up on household stuff, plus you want to see friends and family that you’ve been missing.
No matter how dialed my traveling has gotten over the years—I even did this trip with just a carry-on!—coming home after a crazy week filled with mostly 16-hour days and minimal sleep is tough. You feel like crap, you’re a little overwhelmed with the work that’s piled up, but you’re also just so damn tired. So, how am I dealing with ‘re-entry’ this trip, to set up for a great week at home? Here we go…
Reset Your Food
Likely, you’re getting home a little dehydrated, you’ve probably had at least a few “cheat meals” and airport snacks and pastries that weren’t super healthy, and maybe you had an extra drink or two (that one was not an issue for me this trip, but it’s happened!). So, when we first get home, it’s back to big salads for dinner and trying really hard to keep meals veggie and protein focused all day. If I have been having a bit more wine or a couple more margaritas than usual, I’ll dial it way back as well. Nothing drastic, no juice cleanses or crap like that. Just more veggies than normal.
Nothing makes you feel more back to normal than doing your laundry from the trip and unpacking. When I first get home, the last thing I really want to do is unpack… But I’ve learned that a) it does make you feel a lot more sorted out, b) it doesn’t take as long as you’d think, and c) your husband is less likely to start unpacking (poorly) for you. OK, that last one might just be Peter, but still. It’s a lot more pleasant to wake up the next day to an already unpacked house, even if that means going to bed a little later. Tomorrow-you will say thanks.
Take Time for Self-Care
For me, this meant not freaking out about an overflowing inbox this morning. It meant running to the gym and lifting heavy things, it meant taking 10 minutes for a quick face mask, trimming my nails and taking a shower. Minor stuff that should be part of the day, but I almost skipped it because I was getting stressed about getting my to-do list ticked off. Really, it didn’t take much time, and after a workout, I felt a lot more productive and ready to crush anyway. And honestly, we do everything that we do so that we can be happy and healthy. So, taking care of your health should be #1.
Breathe. Now, Prioritize.
See that to-do list? Scary, right? OK, Take a deep breath. Now, look at it and spend a few minutes figuring out what to actually do today.
I have a quick system there:
- I go with David Allen’s Getting Things Done method of the 2 minute rule: if you can do it in 2 minutes, do it. A lot of tasks that you’ve jotted down over the last week or so are short and easy to smash through. That usually takes a few things off the list within the first 20 minutes of the day. This isn’t what I do every morning, but when the list is super long and you’re freaked out, this is a good way to calm down, and get off to a solid start.
- For an overflowing inbox, I am a huge fan of Boomerang after hitting my inbox with that 2 minute rule to get rid of urgent stuff. Boomerang lets you get rid of the email for a certain amount of time, then it comes back. So your inbox looks less overwhelming, but you don’t forget to answer messages.
- Pick the must-dos… and do them. I mean the stuff that will actually get you fired if it isn’t done, or at least, the stuff that your boss will be asking for. Think Important AND Urgent. Don’t hold off on these, drop the hammer and get to it.
- Move things. Important but not urgent, and you’re not feeling interested in doing it? Move it to another, later date. Urgent but not a chance of finishing it? Figure out who you need to delegate to/warn that it won’t be done.
- Before you call it a night, try to clear your first day’s to-do list. That will likely mean rescheduling a lot of stuff versus finishing it, but I hate waking up the second day home with a to-do list hangover from the day before.
Make Plans with Friends
Even if all you want to do is curl up and never leave the house, make a plan with friends or family for a chill dinner or hike or something for a couple days after you get home. This is the task I find the hardest, but the most rewarding. I spend very little time at home, and when I’m on the road, it’s a very extroverted time. As an introvert, I do need that down time at home to recharge. But I also crave community, and I know I’ll be happier seeing my closest friends and our families, even if I feel more like locking the door and staying home for a while. So, before you even get home, reach out and make a plan or two. This trip, we actually had friends down by the bay at the beach right when we were driving into town, so we stopped for an impromptu 20 minute swim and playtime with them and their kids. It was quick, but it immediately made me feel cooler (we didn’t have AC in the car and it was awful) and more like I was already home, even though we hadn’t even gone to the condo yet! That doesn’t always work well—a lot of times we’ve tried things like that, we’ve ended up exhausted and overwhelmed, but the casual/quick stop was perfect.
Have a “Bonus Structure”
I knew this two week block was going to wreck me a little, so before we left, I actually had a massage booked for the day after we got home. I figured I was going to be a tense, tight ball of nerves (and just screwy from so much flying and driving) and I was absolutely right. But if I hadn’t booked something beforehand, I wouldn’t have let myself take the time to go and get a massage. So, have your bonus for surviving the long/crazy trip ready to go! Note: I would book this type of thing even post-vacation or honeymoon, to make for an even happier re-entry home.
Make a List
While I’m gone, I have two lists. One is the usual to do list, and I make it a point to put things on the calendar for a date when I’m back (the day after I get back, or two days after, depending). That way, it’s sort of hidden so I can write down things like ‘go to post office for XYZ,’ but not be staring at them every day that I’m gone, remembering that I can’t currently do them. The second list that I make is when I’m traveling without Peter. Then, it’s a list of things that I want to tell him. Some, I’ll tell him at night on the phone, but other things—dumb or funny things that are better explained in person—go on a list. I’ve had a ton of trips where I get back and I’ve forgotten a ton of great stories to tell him. Never anything important, but stuff that makes for good conversation, and I spend a ton of time going “I know I had something to tell you.” Writing it down so I can relay those experiences does wonders for putting me in a good mood and reminding me of the best parts of trips!
Anyone else have any suggestions for post-trip real-life re-entry? I’d love to hear!
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