As 2022 draws to a close, many of us are feeling excited to switch on our “Out of Office” message before going on a long-awaited holiday break. ‘Tis the season for reconnecting with family and friends, celebrating the year’s achievements, and planning for the year ahead. It’s also a time for taking some well-deserved time off from work and association responsibilities.  

But what happens after the holidays have come and gone? The first thing that comes to mind for many association leaders is getting back up to speed. Here are a few things you can do to make this transition smoother and more productive.   


Start preparing for your return before you leave for your vacation. 

Organization is key to getting back to association responsibilities after the holiday break. We know the end of year is a busy period for most association leaders and that is why it is important to plan ahead. We recommend that you start by organizing and tidying up your workspace. Often, we are excited and in such a hurry to clock out, that we forget to clean up our work environment and leave scattered files on our desk, pens, mail, etc. However, returning to a messy space can cause us to feel distracted and make it hard for us to focus on higher-level responsibilities. Instead, do your future self a favour before you leave and declutter your space and stock up on your essentials. That way, when you come back, you’ll be walking into a clean and stress-free environment.    

Also, in the days leading up to the holidays, connect with your fellow board members to map out a to-do list for the new year. That way, you will have a clear idea of everyone’s expectations, agree on priorities, and assess the progress of important projects. Planning will help ensure that everyone gets what they need done. We suggest implementing time-management tools like calendar reminders, so nothing slips through the cracks and that there’s no delay in getting back up to speed. Knowing that everything is accounted for will allow for a more relaxed time off and less stress upon your return! 

Empty your inbox and complete priority projects, as much as possible. Finally, set up your out of office message indicating that you will be on holiday and will answer any emails or calls upon your return. If possible, include a buffer period because the reality is, you are most likely returning to a mountain of emails and voicemails that you won’t necessarily be able to get through on your first day back! We also recommend that you include your vacation days in your email signature during the weeks leading up to your time away so that your fellow board members and association members will have a realistic timeline of when to expect a response from you.     


Prioritize tasks for your return 

Your first few days back at work are likely to be busy, as you catch up on what’s happened in your association during the holiday season. Often time, we’ll look at the emails sitting in our inbox and pending projects and want to hit the ground running. However, the best thing to do is to allow yourself a transition period where you ease yourself back into the swing of things at your own pace before getting too deep in the weeds of projects and meetings. Even if it feels like there’s no time to spare, set limits on how many tasks you decide to tackle in those first couple of days, such as catching up on emails and voicemails. If your calendar is filled with meetings or other events from the get-go, narrow down the list of meetings and focus instead on only those that will help move projects forward or address immediate concerns. 


Keep that Holiday glow when returning back to work by taking regular breaks to get some fresh air and stretch your legs!  

When feeling the need for a break, take a walk around the block or around the office, if it’s too cold outside. Everyone has been there—you get back from vacation and can’t seem to make it through one meeting without getting distracted by emails, texts, and social media notifications. If this sounds all too familiar, consider taking a short, 15-minute walk before starting work again. Getting some exercise has been shown to reduce stress levels and improve cognitive functioning as well as moods—and what better way to start your day than by clearing your head? It may appear self-indulgent at first glance but taking some time for yourself before diving into meetings and phone calls is an important step in regaining focus when returning from vacation or the end of year holidays. You’ll come back refreshed with ideas and ready to get back into work mode with renewed energy! 



The holidays are a time to unplug and unwind, but they are also a time to feel re-energized and ready to tackle what’s next in the new year. It’s important for association leaders of all stripes to make sure they’re getting back into the swing of things before returning to work after the holiday season has passed. We hope our strategies help make your initial return to the office a bit easier and productive. 

Curious about how to prepare for the unexpected? Read my colleague’s article