Leadership Focus: 10 Ways to Return to Work After Holidays

I’m wearing my leadership coach cap today, staring into the froth of my first cappuccino. I’m thinking about those of you returning to work from the 4th of July long weekend (and those of you in Oz on school hols returning to work soon).

“Nobody knows what awaits you at work after an extra day or two off, but that’s also the good news. Give yourself a clean, calm space to work in, leave yourself the time you really need to do things right, and commit yourself to enjoying your extended weekend.”

This quote is extracted from Kevin Purdy‘s article How To Dig Out After A Long Weekend  (FastCompany.com, Mon Jul 4, 2011) and I couldn’t resist adding to it given its timing. 

What I’ve found coaching corporate people is the prospect of either going on vacation, being away on vacation or returning from vacation can be stressful. In order to avoid this stress many people do not take much-needed breaks. Others take the break to come back even more tired, stressed and further behind at work than before they left. In fact I’d be surprised if one of my clients doesn’t bring this up today.

If you’re feeling stressed after your holiday — you are not alone! — here are 10 things you can do:

  1. Take a deep breath.
  2. Get Started: Prioritize.
    • Spend 2 minutes ONLY listing the immediate things that need to get done. 
    • Spend another minute putting LETTERS next to each task in order of priority A, B, C only.   
    • Throw away your C list of tasks and see if they reappear later in the week or month.
    • Define A tasks in concrete terms with people, time needed and put this in your diary as time slots.
    • Put B items on a list to review at the end of your week or when you’ve completed the A items.
  3. Be honest with yourself.
    • Is what you’re spending time on important?
    • Is what you’re avoiding important? If so talk it through with someone.
  4. Be honest with others.
    • Is the timeframe you’ve committed to achievable?
    • Do you have the right people, enough money and/or resources to complete within the deadline?
  5. Be Realistic
    • If you do not have the time to complete it, what do you need to do to either change the expectation of others and/or yourself?
  6. Take care of yourself.
    • Schedule in time to eat properly 3 x/day.
    • Sleep a minimum of 7 hours. You know this — you cannot be effective sleep deprived.
    • Take at least 2 x 10 minute walks out of your office/home office to refocus a day. Tip: take someone with you to team build or brainstorm.
    • Did I say take a deep breathCheck you are breathing during meetings or phone calls. (and you think I’m being funny)
  7. Focus on ONE thing at a time succinctly put by Mark Forster and given out as a mantra by leadership coaches every day.
    • Block out time to complete routine tasks. eg: 30 mins 2x/day to answer all your emails from 7 – 7:30 am, 3 – 3:30 pm.  
    • Leave your phone off during meetings.
    • Return all calls within a single block of time.
  8. Return to your routine ASAP.
    • Routines can feel boring after holidays, but they provide consistency and reduce stress. Find one that suits you.
  9. OR Build a consistent routine.
    • At IBM we were taught to spend 15 minutes at the END of each day looking through our diaries and planning the following day. I still recommend this to clients.
      • Have you allowed enough travel time?
      • Do you have an A task that you need to allocate time for?
      • Do you absolutely have to attend that meeting or will a phone call or email suffice?
    • Block out time for yourself and family first then schedule everything else around it. Sound counter-intuitive? Try it out!
  10. Relive your holiday memories and plan for the next.
    • Upload your favourite snaps to a rotating screen saver.
    • Schedule lunch with a close co-worker or friend in the first week to share your experiences.
    • Talk to your friends, family or partner to get the ideas flowing about the next break and get it scheduled.

I’m adding my professional knowledge to the resources that I’ve used for this post. To read further click on these related links:

Please feel free to share your tips with others. What do you do when you get back from being away from work?

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