Getting back to work.
“One Day or Day One, You Choose”
By Donnavan Finlay, Co-Founder of Guyding Principals.
With the vacation coming to an end for most of us, I thought I could share some of my thoughts on getting back to the office and be effective and not just overwhelmed. I remember the days I dreaded getting back to the office after a vacation. All the catching up to do, the e-mails alone got me all rattled up. That was until I sat down and really though what I can do to set me for a less stressful return.
Most of us have the idea that we will get there all refreshed and ready for anything our jobs can throw at us. The reality of the matter is far from this.
Most will get back and be completely overwhelmed with all the tasks at hand. Meeting after meeting. Hundreds of e-mails and you will see your calendar just gets fuller and before you know it you hardly have time for some lunch. Before we know it we are looking forward to the next vacation.
When you walk into the office after vacation with a plan you can avoid being steamrolled with everything. Nothing will drain your energy and motivation than being overwhelmed and not being able to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Before you set off on your well-deserved vacation, ensure that you have an “out of office” reply set up with your mail and phone before you leave. Keep it short but informative. Add the date of your return but also forwarding information. If it is urgent they can contact the person still on duty. Most offices will have some staff around during the holidays. You should use that to your advantage.
First thing I like to do when I get to the office is clean and organize my workspace. Nothing wastes time more than looking for stuff on a messy desk. This will just add pressure to the already stressful day. Keep a trashcan close and trash everything you need to. It’s a new year so surely you do not need all the stuff and old documents you left there before your departure. Start the year with a clean slate and a tidy desk.
Just as we have planned to go away we should plan to get back again. This will avoid a pile up of work when you do get back to the office. A great book to read on managing e-mail and electronic communications is “Bit Literacy by Mark Hurst”. We tend to spend hours everyday sorting through e-mails and messages. This book trained me to cut that time in half. This gave me added free time to get other tasks done. You should consider nuking your inbox when you get back to work. Just give it a quick look, flag any important or interesting mails and delete the rest. That is correct, just nuke it. This will prevent a complete waste of time going through e-mails that do not apply to you. Avoid reading you mails in chronological order.
Consider getting back a day or so earlier. We would all love to stay at the beach for one last or extra day. I choose to get home one day or even a couple before I have to return to work. This gives me time to settle in at home. Time to unpack and actually chill a bit. This will get you in the right frame of mind before getting back to work.
You should already have an idea of what to expect when you get back to work, so use that experience to your advantage. You know what time the meetings will be and how much time most tasks will take. Plan your day in intervals so you know that you will be able to complete what you need to get done. I tend to break my day up in 30-minute intervals. Most important tasks first. This helps me stay focused on one task at a time and it helps me complete more than I would when I try to do everything at the same time.
If possible, push meetings to a day or so after your return. It will help you to not be overwhelmed with everything. If you do have meetings on the first day your to-do list will just get longer. Also, if you do share a calendar with the office, block out some time in advance. If it looks like you are available you will get tasks added to your calendar by others.
No late night drinks with you buddies. There will plenty of time to catch up and have some fun. Postpone any after work activities till after you feel settled in again. The only drinks you should be focused on are water and coffee. We all know coffee is our friend. Leave the office on time and get good rest.
Last thing to remember is that you will miss some things. Things may happen that you do not really like or agree with while you are away, but that is fine. You have a vacation for a reason and it is to get some rest and time with friends and family. If you keep checking in with work you will not get the rest you need to be productive in the office for long periods of time. Believe me, I have seen people being burned out and then losing their jobs, not a pretty sight.
Good luck with the return and I hope everyone’s new year will get off to a cracking start.
What have you done in the past to get you to settle into work a bit easier?