We’re in the height of the fall conference season, and there are lots of us on the road. As academics, many of us travel at least once or twice a year to attend academic conferences. Traveling (for many different reasons) is a common part of our academic lives.
I’ve noticed a BIG mistake that academic women make when they travel. I want you to stop making this mistake right now. If you do, you will see an immediate improvement in your work and home life the week after your travel.
Here’s the BIG mistake you’re making: You don’t plan your re-entry post-travel.
Yes, that’s right. The biggest favor that you can do for yourself is to carefully and gently plan your re-entry after travel. Let me explain what I mean.
Here’s how you are returning from travel now:
On your calendar you have blocked out all the days you travel. You arrive home from your trip at 5:00 p.m. Monday. You go to campus to teach a 9:00 a.m. class on Tuesday. After class, things don’t stop. You have a backlog of emails and a bunch of (supposedly) urgent tasks that have popped up since you left. You have a revise and resubmit due in two weeks, and you had blocked off Tuesday afternoon to work on it, but instead you end up putting out the many fires that ignited while you were gone.
Things don’t get better on Wednesday, because now things are even more backed up. The rest of the week goes by and you never get to the revise and resubmit. You feel completely behind and like you are running on a treadmill that is programmed to go about three clicks too fast. Oh, and your suitcase is still not unpacked.
Here’s what things look like when you plan your re-entry:
On your calendar you have blocked out all the days you travel. In addition, you have blocked one re-entry day. You arrive home from your trip at 5:00 p.m. Monday. Your Tuesday class is covered with an online assignment or other substitute. On Tuesday, you stay home. You unpack your bag, get extra sleep if you’re jet-lagged, work one hour on writing (preferably during your Tiger Time).
On Tuesday afternoon you open your email with ONE goal: make a plan. On this day, you do not actually put out any fires (let them burn!). Instead, you get out your planner and you make a re-entry plan to deal with all the things that came up while you were gone. You realize that you won’t get as much writing done as you want to the week after a trip, but that’s ok! You are gentle on yourself. You lower the bar. You go to work on Wednesday ready to stick to your plan and avoid overwhelm by re-entering work with ease.
A few mindset shifts that you’ll need in order to plan your re-entry
You may be rolling your eyes and thinking “I can’t possibly waste a whole day!” The re-entry day is NOT wasted! In fact, the re-entry day ensures that you DON’T waste an entire week (or more) spinning your wheels and feeling overwhelmed.
When I coach academic women on how to write and publish more, I always tell them to plan a re-entry day. And they are always shocked and delighted at how well it works! This is definitely a technique that you will want to try. Trust me.
As you are considering you re-entry plan, you can refer to this checklist to make sure you’ve thought of everything.
Your re-entry checklist:
- Block the day after your return from travel as a re-entry day on your calendar.
- Do not go to campus on re-entry day.
- When people ask when you will return from travel, you do not tell them about the re-entry day! Just tell them the day you will be back on campus.
- Set up an email auto-responder with your travel days (include the re-entry day in your travel!)
- On re-entry day, wait until the afternoon to check email.
- When checking email, do it with your calendar by your side and make a plan.
- Stick to the plan!