The past two and a half weeks have been a literal whirlwind that has left me feeling one hundred percent spent, both physically and emotionally. Today marks the first back-to-normal week as I finally return to the office and I’m crossing all the fingers, crossing all the toes and praying to all the gods that I will make it through the day productively without dragging.
Going back to work after being out for two weeks is always tough. Everyone who has done it knows how difficult it could be to get back into the swing of things at work. It’s one thing to come back after a planned week but having an unexpected additional week thrown in makes it extra tough to come out the gate super productive. For a second I thought about how great it would be to have a fresh start with a clean inbox and zero-item task list. I mean, it is the start of a new year, right?
Since I can’t just obliterate my email messages from 2016 nor can I forget about any outstanding to-do’s, I’ve come up with a plan to make it through this day (and week) without feeling the urge to stab myself in the eyeballs with two sharpened pencils dipped in arsenic. Apologies for the dramatics.
- Employ the “touch it once” methodology. I learned this technique through a podcast called Straight and Curly, episode 7. The idea behind it is that you don’t touch something or pick it up unless you plan on doing something with it. For example, your inbox. Don’t go through every single new message then close them then tell yourself you’ll take action later because you know what will happen? When it’s time to take action, you’ll read each message all over again and if that isn’t a waste of time, I don’t know what is.
- Sort my to-do list for the day into the must-do’s and the can-do’s. No need to explain what the must-do’s are but the can-do’s are those items that I can take care of immediately in under 15 minutes. You might think that I would go after my must-do list first but au contraire mon frère, the can-do’s items are what gets crossed off first.
- Block off time on my calendar for white space. And I don’t just mean blocking off time. I mean actually making the most of that blocked off time and getting stuff done. I can remember countless occasions when I actually blocked off time on my calendar but because things came up — oh you know, like a last-minute meeting, a co-worker comes by my desk with a quick question, or that vanilla latte from Starbucks calls out to me — I never actually take advantage of the white space. This time for real I will utilize that white space even if it means I have to drag myself to a secret location in the building to do it.
- Limit time to visit with colleagues who are friends and friends who are colleagues. These are the people I spend most of my day with and after being out for over two weeks, I really miss them and want to catch up on a personal basis. But I know that I could really get caught up in getting caught up and if I don’t limit the time on this first day, my to-do list will suffer. When my to-do list suffers, I’m just not a happy camper.
Hopefully, with this plan, I will have a productive back-to-work day. And if I start with a productive back-to-work day, maybe it will continue throughout the rest of my back-to-work week. How ace would that be?
What are your tips and tricks for being productive on your first day/week post-vacation?