After the festive break, or any another holiday for that matter, it can be a challenge to get back into the swing of things and build momentum again. Here are a few tips on how to ease into things and not lose the benefits of the holiday too quickly.
- Take a step back – “what ? … I hear you say, “I have been on holiday for two weeks I want to get ripped into things and get going.” Yes you can do that, or you can take a step back and remind yourself of the main goals, strategies and plans for the year, where you and the team are at and use this review to build a clear picture of what your priorities should be.
- Talk to people – check-in with your boss and team to ensure that your priorities and thoughts correspond with theirs. (Don’t forget to ask them how the holiday was and take a genuine interest in how they are.) Agree expectations and set follow-up meetings
- Make a to do list and prioritise. Based on the above write down the things you have to get done each day and prioritise – A, B, or C and then number A1, A2, B1, B2 etc. This should mean that you are starting to work on the most important and/or hardest things first – it will be hard, but you will feel so much better when you have started on them and get them done. When the big things have been done, the smaller things are easier to do.Be sure to break your big list into small chunks for each day at the beginning of the week; you can’t do it all in one day and looking at a long list just gets you down. A short list gives focus and you feel good when you tick things off as done.
Procrastination Alert – do not start with the small things first, they will consume your day and the important work will be continually deferred!
- Schedule time in your calendar for your priority work. Before others take control of your week, book 1.5 to 2 hours in the morning and afternoons for priority work. As far as possible let other meetings and work fall around these times unless they relate to your priority work. It is amazing what you can get done with dedicated interruption free time.
- Give yourself a break. You want quality concentrated effort with the job done first time. So if you feel concentration dropping off, don’t push through as you will likely make mistakes and end up doing the work again. Take breaks, keep yourself fresh. If you have done the hardest things first when the fatigue sets in you can work on the low priority and generally easier tasks.Go easy on yourself, some things may have to be done over a few days or even weeks. You have been away, it will take time to get back into it. Accept this and use it. Fighting it will tire you out even more.
- Prep for meetings and phone calls. Be clear on what you want to get out of them and prepare. This should always be done anyway, however after being away for a few weeks you need to do a bit more work to build focus. Do your preparation and you will make sure you use the time well and not miss opportunities.
- Be smart with you e-mails. At some point you will have to confront the dreaded in box; whether you get to all those e-mails first thing, in small batches or later in the day, here are a few ideas to make it easier:
- Sort your in box by alphabetical order to go though them. This way you can look for e-mail trails so you only need to read the last e-mail in the trail – delete the rest. Same for reports that update automatically. You can quickly find the messages from the people that you know are a priority and will see the spam mail much more easily this way.
- Be unrelenting with the delete – where a mail does not relate to your work objectives and you can get the information at another date delete it. If once you have read a mail you do not need it again, delete it.
- Where you have a major task to start in the future related to the message or need to look at it later, the e-mail to tasks and set it with a reminder date to come back to you when you think you will be ready to do it. This will remove the e-mail from your inbox.
- Don’t reply to the mail if you can. The less e-mails you send, the less you will receive. If there is a need to contact a person, think about whether a phone call will be more productive and avoid another round of e-mails.
- Delegate the work within the e-mail as appropriate making sure that you state clearly what you want done and by when. Be sure you have a follow-up system so you can track the work – again tasks can be useful for this.
- File it – if you do need the information file it somewhere – the main thing is to remove it from your in box.
- Go home at a reasonable hour. Really an extension of point 3; working long does not relate to quality. At the end of the day review your to do list, create a fresh one for the next day and go home with a clear mind and enjoy your other life. (This may have been something you promised yourself for the New Year, so start as you mean to continue!)
- Don’t forget your body. Give yourself the right fuel, exercise and sleep to build and maintain your energy at work.