When we return to work after a vacation or time away, we expect to fire up our computers with unlimited energy and rejuvenated productivity. That daydream is often dashed by feelings of regret, exhaustion, and guilt. Our overfilling inboxes, pending tasks, and expectant colleagues can squash memories of carefree holidays.
You don’t have to be mentally drained by the heap of work waiting for you after a break from the office. The following strategies can help you overcome the stress of getting back to the daily grind.
Schedule Appointments with Your Inbox
As soon as you return to work, you’ll likely devour your emails, Slack messages, and other notifications. Once you are caught up, silence the distractions. Communications pinging you from the periphery will only delay the completion of important tasks. Put your phone away from eyesight, close apps, and consider setting up notifications to inform others that you’re concentrating. Schedule a time to check your communications each hour. If you see a message from someone important, answer those. If you see items that can wait, schedule a time to reply. Don’t end your first day back at work trapped in an email volley. Get something done.
Create a Ranked To-Do List
The instant that you check your messages, you will be bombarded with all that you need to do. This daunting workload can be mastered with a mindful strategy. Instead of reacting to each blaring task, consciously prioritize what should be done. Create a list of the 10 most important items that need to be achieved within the first two days back to work, followed by a list of the 10-15 things that should be accomplished by the end of the week. A third list, titled “this can wait,” can also help prioritize items that should be done later. These lists, whether created on paper, through an app, spreadsheet, or an email to yourself, will help you see the big picture about how to maximize your productivity.
Tackle One Task at a Time
To alleviate your workload, you may feel pressured to juggle several tasks. Doing five things at the same time isn’t the most efficient way to get things done. You’ll only elevate stress, break concentration, and hinder substantial headway toward your goals. Focus on one project at a time. You’ll feel accomplished checking items off your to-do lists, as well as ease the anxiety of balancing too many things at once.
Meetings are meant for decision-making rather than information sharing. They should have a purpose and an agenda. When you return to work, ignore impulses to schedule meetings to catch up. Seldom do these meetings provide information that can’t be shared via an email or a phone call. If a colleague requests a meeting, pause to ask if there will be an actionable outcome from the session. If there isn’t one, and, you feel empowered to speak up, kindly suggest that the conversation transition to an email or 15-minute chat.
Stop Judging Yourself
We all want to be superstars at work. When we feel like we aren’t running optimally, we can become overwhelmed and harsh on ourselves. Remember: It is healthy to take vacations, to turn off notifications during holidays with loved ones, and to have a break every once in a while. Don’t berate your thoughts with judgment. Acknowledge what you need to work on and take systematic steps to achieve those goals.
Be Prepared to Say No
Every unnecessary task or activity creates demand for your time, energy, and productivity. It is up to you and only you to manage your personal resources. Be comfortable saying “no” when others are throwing items onto your plate. Most people experience the stresses of doing too much at one time or another. Typically, they will understand if you explain why you can’t give your attention to non-critical tasks at this time.
We all have habits and activities that are a part of our weekly rhythms at work. When you return from time away, you may stray from those routines by working extra hours, skipping meals, or avoiding social situations. Try to include your usual habits into your hectic post-holiday workweek. This will create normalcy within the frenzy of catching up. It will put you back into the rhythm of what life is like when you’re not vacationing.
Get Some Sleep
Transitioning back into office life can be stressful on the mind and body. Make sure to get adequate sleep, even if you feel obligated to work late. Rest will make you more productive and get your body used to what life is like when you’re not on holiday.
Breaks are healthy and keep burnout at bay, so ditch your vacation guilt and take proactive steps to find your stride at work. These eight strategies will help you regain productivity, repress stress, and get peace of mind when you return to the office.
A version of this article was originally published by Punctuate.co, an educational resource that helps entrepreneurs tackle the tough stuff.
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