MANCHESTER, NH—Returning to work after seven days off, Derek Olson, 31, confessed Monday that his plan to use his weeklong vacation to straighten out his life yielded mixed results.

Derek Olson stands among some of the boxes he'd hoped to unpack last week.

"This was the week all the shit I'd been putting off for years—big and small—was going to get done," said Olson, a data-entry operator at A.G. Edwards & Sons. "From getting Steve and Kim a gift for their wedding two months ago to going through all those boxes I'd left unpacked since moving here in 2004 to finally deciding what my future is with [girlfriend] Melanie [Stirre], it was all going to get taken care of."

"I did pay my gas bill," Olson continued, "but then I lost the envelope somewhere on the way to the mailbox, so now I have to wait for a second notice."

After using last Saturday and Sunday—the first two days of his break—to recover from "a shitstorm of a work week," Olson decided he would begin straightening up his life first thing Monday morning.

"I thought that if I didn't rest up over the weekend, I'd burn out halfway through my week off," said Olson, explaining the slow start. "Saturday night, I did write up a list of what I wanted to accomplish over the course of the coming week, but it wasn't really all that complete."

Among the goals written on the abbreviated list: a thorough cleaning of his apartment, laundry, re-ordering of checks, buying a bigger CD shelf, signing up for a T'ai Chi course, cashing in a large jar of loose change at the bank, updating his resume, looking for a new job, and "figuring out the whole Melanie thing."

Olson's plan to straighten out his life first thing Monday morning was derailed the evening prior.

"I was going to go to bed early Sunday so I could get up early Monday and start on all my projects," Olson said. "But then I realized I could go to Rocky's [Bar & Grill], where they have this really cool thing called Rocky's Sunday Night Record Jam, where this guy spins all these really cool old vinyl records, everything from Curtis Mayfield to The Damned. I normally never get to go because I have to get up at 6 a.m. Mondays, so I figured it was my big chance. But then I got a little more drunk than I'd planned."

Upon waking up Monday, a hung-over Olson decided it would be a "day of recovery" and vowed to begin first thing Tuesday. After spending most of Tuesday in his bathrobe re-reading Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets, Olson finally went to the basement that evening to begin the first of his many projects.

"I decided the first thing I was going to do was unpack all the stuff in the basement," Olson said. "When I opened the first box marked 'Magazines,' it had nothing but a bunch of socks and my electric pencil sharpener. I got so pissed off with my lack of organization, I went back upstairs and started watching TV."

Having accomplished only a few tasks Wednesday and Thursday, Olson knew he would have to "really bear down" Friday.

"I actually would've gotten a lot of stuff done Friday if the whole universe hadn't been against me," Olson said. "I took my car in to get my tires rotated, but the guy said he couldn't get to it until the following Tuesday, so I was like, 'Screw that.' I also went to Staples to pick up the computer desk I'd had on layaway for the last month, but I forgot to bring my receipt. They wouldn't give the stupid thing to me, even after arguing with the guy for almost an hour. The whole day was a colossal waste. Except I got a new belt I needed for work."

After devoting Friday night to drinking to unwind from the computer-desk episode, a once again hung-over Olson spent most of Saturday re-alphabetizing his CDs, a task he did not plan to take on during his week off but needed to be done.

Sunday was spent fretting over the wasted week and berating himself for not going to San Diego—a trip he'd strongly considered taking before committing to staying home and getting his life in order.

"Next year, I'm definitely going to San Diego," Olson said. "This was stupid."

According to corporate consultant and motivational speaker Jeffrey Hatcher, trying to catch up on years of neglected goals in one week is not a good strategy.

"You have to make a conscious effort every day," Hatcher said. "You can't spend years letting things fall apart and then fix it all in seven days. It's just not possible. Perhaps if Derek had had two weeks off, he might have been able to catch up on a sizable portion of his tasks, but he won't be getting two weeks of vacation at his job for at least another three years, before which time he'll most certainly be fired for being so disorganized. So there's no real point in talking about it."