8 Stress-Free Steps to Be Productive at Work After a Vacation

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When we return to work after a holiday or time away, we expect to fire up our computers with unlimited energy and rejuvenated productivity. That daydream is often dashed when faced with an overfilling inbox, pending tasks, and expectant colleagues. The delightful memory of our days off is squashed by overwhelming feelings of exhaustion and guilt.

You don’t have to be mentally drained by the heap of work waiting for you after your break. The following strategies can help you overcome the scatter-brained sensations of getting back to the daily grind. 

Create a Ranked To-Do List

You will be bombarded with all that you need to achieve the instant that you check your messages. This daunting workload can be mastered with a mindful strategy. Instead of reacting to each blaring task, consciously prioritize what should be done first. Create a list of the 10 most important items that need to be achieved within the first two days back to work, followed by a list of the 10-15 things that should be accomplished by the end of the week. Add a third column titled “this can wait” to place items that can be done later. These lists, whether created on paper, in a spreadsheet, or on a Trello board, will help you see the big picture about your productivity. 

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Tackle One Task at a Time 

To alleviate your workload, you may feel pressured to juggle several tasks. Doing five things at the same time isn’t the most efficient way to get things done. You’ll only elevate stress, break concentration, and hinder substantial headway toward your goals. Focus on one project at a time. You’ll feel accomplished checking items off your to-do list, and ease the anxiety of balancing too many things at once. 

Schedule Appointments with Your Inbox

As soon as you return to work, you’ll undoubtedly devour your emails, Slack messages, and project management notifications. Once you’re caught up, silence the distractions. Getting sucked into communications pinging you from the periphery will only delay completion of important tasks. Put your phone away from eyesight, close apps, and consider setting up notifications to inform others that you’re concentrating. Schedule a time to check your communications each hour. If you see a message from someone important, answer those. If you see items that can wait, schedule a time to reply. Don’t end your first day back at work trapped in an email volley. Get something done. 

Rethink Meetings

Meetings are meant for decision-making rather than information sharing. They should have a purpose and an agenda. When you return to work, ignore impulses to schedule meetings to catch up. Seldom do these meetings provide information that can't be shared via an email or a phone call. If a colleague requests a meeting, pause to ask if there will be an actionable outcome from the session. If there isn’t one and you are empowered to speak up, kindly suggest that the conversation transition to an email or 15-minute chat. 

Reinstate Routines

We all have habits and schedules that are a part of our weekly rhythms at work. When you return from time away, you may be straying from those routines by working extra hours, skipping meals, or avoiding social situations. Try to inject your usual routines into your hectic post-holiday workweek. This will help reinstate normalcy within the frenzy of catching. Plus, it will help put you back into the rhythm of what life is like when you’re not vacationing. 

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Be Prepared to Say No 

Every unnecessary task or activity creates demand on your time, energy, and productivity. It is up to you and only you to manage your personal resources. Be comfortable saying “no” when others are throwing items onto your plate. Most people experience the stresses of doing too much at one time or another. Typically, they will understand if you explain why you can’t give your attention to non-critical tasks at this time. 

Stop Judging Yourself

We all want to be superstars at work. When we feel like we aren’t running optimally, we can become overwhelmed and harsh on ourselves. Remember: It is healthy to take vacations, to turn off notifications during holidays with loved ones, and to give yourself breaks. Don’t berate your thoughts with judgment. Acknowledge what you need to work on and take systematic steps to achieve those goals. 

Get Some Sleep 

Transitioning back into office life can be stressful on the mind and body. Make sure to get adequate sleep, even if you feel obligated to work all night. Rest will make you more productive and get your body used to what life is like when you’re not on holiday. 

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