I get it. I really do. Getting back on task and into the swing of things after taking time off is brutal. Heck, my brain is trying to come out of vacation mode as we speak. Just last week, I was in Florida (why, yes, I did live out a long-term dream to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter). I rode roller coasters until my face was green, kicked back by the pool, and ate fresh seafood at every meal. Needless to say, the transition back into the real Muggle world has been a hard one. How, oh, how do I focus after a vacation? What spell can I cast to do my dirty laundry and wash the dishes? What potion can I drink to regain my concentration at work?
There are no magical remedies for getting back on task, unfortunately, except for hard work and patience. But, if you can’t concentrate, there are small things you can do for yourself to make focusing easier.
1. Write down anything you’ll need to remember to do when you get home. Prepare before you leave. And I’m not just talking about packing or getting your base tan. Think ahead to the day you’ll come back from vacation. When you reopen your notes or the draft of your thesis you were working on, you don’t want to be asking yourself, “Where did I leave off?” So, before you hop on the plane, find a natural stopping place in your notes or your essay. Write yourself a few lines about what needs to be done when you get back. Maybe you skipped over a chapter when you were studying and need to review it or maybe you had an idea for a thesis statement but want to sit on it for the weekend. Don’t pretend you’ll remember—by day two of your trip, you won’t be thinking about school at all—so jot it all down.
2. Check your email while you are away or set up an out-of-office message. The internet seems to agree that there are two kinds of people in this world: those who open every email they receive and those who have 14,533 unread messages. Whoever you are, realize that even if you have a few days off from school, the important emails from professors and classmates will still keep coming. Don’t let them get lost in your inbox. If you’re going to be on vacation for longer than a weekend, check your email during your trip or set up an automatic reply that lets everyone know that you’re away from your computer. Sure, going off the grid can be freeing, but it’s best not to do it mid-semester unless you absolutely have to. Save any breakups with technology for the summer, when you don’t have grades on the line.
3. Fly back to school at least a day before your first class. It can be tempting to take the longest vacation possible, but it doesn’t feel good to rush to class from the airport. Plus, you’ll never be able to focus after a vacation that ends so abruptly. Get back to campus with a day (or at least 12 hours to spare), and spend that time getting organized. You might need to do laundry, clean your room, finish an assignment, or brush up on your notes. Do it leisurely now so that you’ll be caught up on your chores once classes start back up.
4. Go to bed early when you get back. You may have felt refreshed from your vacation until you spent hours waiting in airports and train stations. Do yourself a favor and get a good night’s sleep when you get back to campus. Sleep increases your concentration, and going to bed early can help you remedy jet lag.
5. Think ahead to your next vacation. I don’t know about you, but when I’m drowning in work and struggling to focus after a vacation, I need something to keep me going, a light at the end of the tunnel. So, if the idea of Vacation: Round Two would motivate you when you’re stuck at the library, go ahead and plan your travels. As for me? I don’t foresee another trip to Universal Studios in the near future, but I’m already excited to have a few days off at the end of the year. After all, it’s something to look forward to.