The Thoughts on Translation household recently returned from a great vacation; a 337 mile bike ride across our home state of Colorado, finishing with a camping trip in Dinosaur National Monument. This vacation was 100% unplugged (a concept that I wrote about last summer): no Internet or cell phone access for 10 whole days! The plus of this kind of vacation is that it’s a complete mental break: I did not think about work more than a couple of times, other than to jot down a few ideas for long-term projects I’d like to work on. The minus is the backlog to which one returns when one does not check e-mail for 10 days…if I didn’t realize that I was back from vacation when I slept in my own bed, I surely realized it when I downloaded 432 unread e-mail messages. Back to reality!
Because I like to take at least one unplugged vacation every year, I’ve developed a few strategies to cope with post-vacation re-entry. First, I force myself to make peace with the opportunities that I missed while I was away. I just write a courteous “Thank you very much for thinking of me for this project, and of course please keep me in mind for the future” e-mail to anyone who contacted me for work while I was away. Then, when it comes to dealing with those 432 unread e-mails, I implement a technique that I call library arrest. We’re all familiar with the concept of house arrest, but placing yourself under house arrest is minimally useful when your living room is carpeted with filthy camping gear and your fridge contains a lonely jar of horseradish. The post-vacation urge to get things done around the house is just too great. And a café can be too distracting; plus there’s often minimal room to spread out.
Enter the local college library, complete with WiFi, big empty tables (it being, after all, the middle of the summer), freezing cold air conditioning and absolutely nothing to do except work. And if you park yourself in a section where the library’s materials are of no interest to you whatsoever, so much the better! Using the library arrest technique, I was able to make a good dent in my inbox in just a couple of hours rather than the endless days that I envisioned when I first looked at those messages. Feel free to contribute your own post-vacation recovery solutions too!