It can be extremely difficult to re-establish momentum after time off because holidays can seriously throw off your rhythm. After a vacation, the first day back may be stressful and overwhelming: you’re slammed with emails and voicemails to catch up on, your desk might be piled with work you left behind, and you might not remember exactly where you were on that big project.
Two reasons it’s hard to re-establish momentum
- Stress. We all know that stress can cause health issues, but are you aware that vacations can temporarily increase stress? It’s also known that the most common day of the week for heart attacks is Monday morning, so it stands to reason that returning after a prolonged absence would be even more challenging.
- Momentum, once lost, is hard to regain. Newton’s first law states that objects tend to continue in their current state of motion unless acted up on by an outside force. This holds true for the activity level of people, as well. Your business may be in full swing, with tremendous forward momentum. Then you take a vacation, which interrupts your progress. When you come back to work, it can be a challenge to re-establish momentum.
Psychologically when we lose momentum, we’re vulnerable to three things
1) Distraction. When we’re at a standstill, it’s easier to focus on irrelevant things around us, like social media or TV, than on where we should be heading. It’s important to guard yourself from distractions.
2) Apathy. It’s a lot harder to care about regaining momentum when it feels like we’re running uphill.
3) Self-doubt. When not much is happening, it’s easy to forget how capable we really are.
How to make that first day back more productive and less painful
- Go into vacation caught up. This will not only make it easier to re-establish momentum afterward but also help you fully enjoy the break, without thoughts of unfinished business looming over you. Before you leave, return all phone calls and emails. Try to finish big projects before your departure, or at least get as far as you can. If you have a major presentation right after you come back, complete as much as possible before you go. Work ahead on any social media messages or blog posts: write them ahead of time and set them up to post automatically while you’re gone. Clean off your desk to avoid the added stress of walking back into your office and facing a mess. All these tasks of preparation take little bits of pressure off your shoulders later.
- Leave behind specific instructions for anyone who might be picking up part of your work in your absence. This will help you avoid the unwanted intrusion of a colleague contacting you for assistance.
- Deliberately plan specific activities you’ll do on your first day back. This is the best way to quickly re-establish momentum. Set aside the first hour for answering emails and voicemails. Then move on to other simple tasks for the morning, like catching up on what happened in your absence. Plan out the next steps on your current project, leaving notes for yourself about who to call next or what action to take.
- Prepare a “welcome home” meal and put it in the freezer. This saves you the stress of racing to the grocery store for lunches that week.
- On your first day back, eat a hearty breakfast. Most vacationers eat a lot while they’re gone, especially big breakfasts. Then they get back to work and accidentally starve themselves, which makes it even harder to function well. Plan a good lunch, too.
- Be thankful. Don’t whine. Have a grateful attitude towards your job. and that you got all this preparation done before you went on a relaxing vacation.
- On your way to work, listen to something positive and uplifting. Play upbeat music or your favorite inspirational speaker – anything that will help motivate you.
- Decide ahead of time that you will roll with the punches. You have a plan, but you know you might be walking into a mess. Prepare to be flexible. This is true whether you work in an office or at home. Life may not cooperate with your plan, but you’ve done your best to have yourself ready.
Vacations are important. We need time away to spend with our families, enjoy life, and recharge our batteries. But even during vacation season, we don’t want to lose our productivity. Pre-vacation planning will determine how productive we’ll be on our return. Many people with their own businesses struggle during the vacation season of summer. Then in September, the end of the year suddenly seems so close, and they feel overwhelmed because they aren’t on track with their goals. You can minimize the struggle by having goals clearly in mind for when you come back, and by planning ahead to re-establish momentum immediately upon your return.
With forethought and planning, you can prepare yourself to dive right back into maximum productivity!