Conferences can inspire, reinvigorate or reorient our thinking about our businesses. But at the end, we travel home and get overwhelmed. The work, the new ideas, the new contacts, the classes to sign up for, the new projects – and then there's unpacking that suitcase, getting laundry done, and starting to make dinner again! What can make it easier?
Use Downtime to Organize.
Organize as much of your follow up as you reasonably can, while on the train, plane or automobile to return to your world. While at conference, keep separate lists of: followup one week after conference; within one month; ideas I want to try; emails to send. Use separate pages of your notebook, mark notes with icons (I use "e" meaning to "email" someone, for example.). Add directly to whatever tool you use for your "to do" lists.
This means it's sorted upon your return. Easier to prioritize and set deadlines, in the context of the work you already had to do. If you can not possibly find time to do this, block time on your calendar after the conference to do a debrief with yourself. Or call your accounting partner or a college and run through the ideas together. Make the date with someone else if you're not convinced you'll create time to do this on your own.
Use What You Know.
If your usual 'to do' list is on paper, bringing that list with you and write on it directly so there's no integration effort upon your return. If you've got a Blackberry or iPhone (or other tool), keep your list there, send yourself emails, or use your web-based to do application. Do it while in session to help you close out mentally and move onto the next meeting.
The goal is to eliminate as much of the transfer of information from the "while you travel list" to the regular list of things to do.
Make Judgment Calls
With too much on your list, you'll likely feel overwhelmed. You were already busy, right? Be judicious. Be clear about your business goals and run these ideas against the goals; do they move the goal forward? Be clear about what's honestly an idea you realistically think you'll carry through, versus ideas that sound cool or useful, but do not belong on your list after all.
Ease Back Into Regular Life.
Block your first day back, or at least the morning. Take no clients or find a sub for the store or restaurant. Give your body and your mind some time to close out from the time away and have time to get ready for your week ahead. Remember last conference – this can snowball out of control quickly. Make small steps of progress. This is not something we do often, so creating and remembering a routine is helpful.
Anchoring yourself for just a few hours at the beginning of your first week back gives you more more productivity that week. Or if you're prune to getting sick when you wear yourself out, this time you'll be healthier. Just as you change your watch as you enter a new time zone, use routines to re-enter real life again. Examples of that are: doing your weekly review, unpacking and getting laundry done right away, dining out your first night back.