By Anja van den Berg
With January 2019 approaching, the feeling of waking up without an alarm clock and the taste of that glorious Christmas pudding will soon feel like distant memories.
Making the transition from the festive season to the daily grind may not be an event you look forward to, but it’s going to happen sooner or later.
How can you avoid the post-vacation crush and hang on to that refreshed glow? Here are three ways to approach your first days back in the office.
- Stay in stealth mode
Give yourself a little margin for getting back into the flow of online communications by setting expectations in your prevacation messages, says Alexandra Samuel, author of Work Smarter with Social Media. Leave your email responder on for an extra day or two, so your colleagues and clients don’t expect an instant response.
In the same vein, stay off the intra-office chat network, and either avoid other in-house and external social networks (like Twitter and LinkedIn) or limit your participation to one or two short windows a day. Leave Skype and other chat systems in do not disturb mode and switch the ringer off on your phone.
- Triage and queue your deliverables
Don’t just walk back into the office after a vacation without a plan of attack – unless you want to be steamrolled. Schedule time for yourself to plan and prioritise the year, says Julie Morgenstern, productivity consultant and author of Never Check Email In The Morning.
“Protect the time you’ve set aside to get caught up the way you would a meeting or a presentation. It’s just as necessary – so treat it that way.” Along with your list of key priorities, make a separate list of fun and easy tasks you can tackle during your first week back, Samuel continues, “so you’ll have some fun stuff you can knock off while you’re waiting for your work brain to turn back on”.
- Change your professional trajectory
You’ve just had the opportunity to enjoy the world where your daily grind wasn’t the be-all and end-all. Try to capitalise on this objectivity. Don’t hit the ground running just yet. Now is the time to critically evaluate your career course. Without a clear path forward, you will be jumping back on the same hamster wheel you’ve tried to conquer the previous year. You will constantly be running but getting nowhere.
Evaluate where your career is going and whether you’d like to change that trajectory. From there, calculate what changes you’d need to make in the coming year to voyage towards your professional destination. Schedule a few hours during the first week back to put milestones to your objectives.
Neuroscientist and stress expert Zoltan Sarnyai says that high self-expectation is a common source of stress at the start of the year. People may have very high hopes for a new year, especially if they feel that the previous year did not go particularly well, he adds. Break big projects down into smaller, more manageable pieces. Be realistic. Start small. Take brakes. Leave the office on time. Enjoy your food away from your desk. Better yet, meet a friend for lunch. Ease yourself back in. And most important of all: when you start to pick up speed, make sure that you are moving in the right direction.
Harvard Business Review: https://hbr.org/2016/05/change-your-career-without-having-to-start-all-over-again
Harvard Business Review: https://hbr.org/2015/06/ease-the-pain-of-returning-to-work-after-time-off
The Telegraph: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/work/how-to-go-back-to-work-after-christmas-without-wanting-to-cry-at/
Life Hack: https://www.lifehack.org/articles/work/everyone-should-know-these-10-tips-before-returning-work-after-vacation.html