Getting back to work after time off

Happy 2019! If you’re like me, this is your first day back at work after the holidays. And like me, you might have some anxiety about it. It can feel overwhelming to go from unstructured time back to the scheduled work world. You may also be feeling less than successful because some of the things you wanted to get done during your time off didn’t get done, and now those items are competing for your mental attention.

Here are some of the things I do to make the transition from time off to work more productive.

1. Make a prioritized list. I have multiple things that I could work on, and if I try to do them all today, I won’t get any of them done and I won’t do my best work. You likely have some scraps left from last year–these are the items that were not important enough to do before you left for the holidays, and now they may have grown in urgency. Make a list of everything you have to do, including the scraps. Prioritize it based on urgency and importance. If there is something that has been on the list for a long time, question its importance–there is no shame in deciding not to do something that sounded like a good idea at the time.

2. Sort your email–I managed to go a whole week during the holidays without checking my emails, and now I have 400 unread messages. If I go through each message sequentially, that could take my entire day. Use your tools to your advantage. In Outlook, you can go to view settings and filter your messages.

I like to start with emails where I am the only person on the To line. This gets me the  messages to which I am most likely to need to respond or act. Then move to emails where I am in the to line with other people. These are messages that are likely to be FYI, that I can read (if important) or delete. Finally check messages where I am in the CC line. Many of these can be deleted. With this approach I can go through 400 messages in about an hour.

3.  Push yourself–just because everybody else works at a slower pace right after the holidays doesn’t mean you have to. I’ve found that the way I use times when the schedule is lighter has a direct impact on more busier times. If your schedule is light today, don’t coast through that time–use it to complete some of the things on your list that you have been putting off. Learn a new skill. By doing so, you will give yourself some breathing room when your schedule gets busier.

So, get back at it–I hope you have a productive and successful 2019.

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