Recovery Day

One of the oldest (and best) pieces of productivity advice is to always plan on a recovery day after a trip. It is such an obvious idea that I hesitate to even post about it. Nevertheless, it is advice that I seldom followed … until now.

The problem for me wasn’t that I didn’t acknowledge the importance of having time after a trip to catch up. Indeed, I so often crash in terms of my workload after trips that it seems like a running bit on the Focused podcast.

The problem is that I never thought about recovery day early enough. It always seemed to slip my mind right up until the night I’d return home from a conference or vacation and realize that my calendar for the next day was an impossible concoction of items that cropped up in my absence mixed in with a full schedule of meetings and other deadlines I’d scheduled before I left. Past Sparky screwed over present Sparky … yet again.

The hallelujah moment for me came with this most recent trip where I, for the first time in my life, scheduled an honest to goodness recovery day. Indeed, I spent all day yesterday with no appointments and no scheduled meetings or calls. Instead, I just caught up with the backlog and brush fires that cropped up over the last few days as I have been traveling and making a little time to spend with my wife.

The trick, for me, was to schedule the recovery day months ago. I have a checklist when I’m planning a trip. It has lots of things like” buy airplane tickets” and” reserve a hotel room”. After my most recent post-trip scheduling debacle, I added a new entry, “schedule recovery day”. 

So several months ago when I was making my initial pass at the list for the Relay 5th anniversary trip, I scheduled August 26, 2019, as my recovery day following that trip. It was a full-day event, and with it sitting there, squatting on my precious calendar real estate, I was constantly reminded of it in the weeks leading up to the trip. When folks would ask me to schedule some time for a meeting or take on a new commitment, past Sparky actually started looking out for future Sparky. Unlike virtually every other trip in my life, I treated yesterday, the day after, as untouchable. Of course, it worked. Without any commitments or unnecessary deadlines, I was able to catch up with those items that generally plague me for days (and sometimes weeks) after a trip.

Today normal programming resumes and I’m back to deadlines and meetings, but I’m doing it without the emotional baggage of feeling behind from the trip. My little experiment about the recovery day worked exactly as well as anybody who’s ever tried a recovery day could (and did) tell me it would… brilliantly.

If all goes according to plan, I have only one trip left this year, which is, thankfully, vacation. Nevertheless, I have already scheduled my recovery day for when I return.