Going Back to Work

My vacation is over and today I go back to work after a whole week off. What awaits me? Have you ever experienced back on the job jitters? You know...the thought of opening up your email and seeing 300 unread messages?! Voice mail messages awaiting for you to make call backs? What about trying to pick back up on pending projects while you were away? Did you have a backup plan in place?

It can be a little overwhelming coming off a vacation and trying to get back into the swing of things. First of all, your body might not be ready to wake up at the appointed time! Well, I'll share some of my basic tips for dealing with the first day back without going crazy. And I'll deal with them in sections: email, phone, pending projects. Before going through these tips, let me say this: you might not be able to pick back up where you left off in one day. It may take a couple of days to get caught up and that's fine. Cut yourself some slack there.

First up, reading and responding to emails.
  • Answer urgent mail first. One thing that can really be overwhelming is going through a ton of emails trying to decipher which ones are urgent and which can wait. Typically, for my job, anything needing my immediate attention has "URGENT" written in the subject line and if you don't have a similar system where you work, this might be a good tip. Then, go through each individual email and work on answering that one before going to the next.
  • Separate unwanted mail. After going through the important emails, I would go through the sales pitch emails and put them into a separate folder cause chances are you might not keep most of them anyway. But separating them from the business email makes it easier to get through your inbox.
  • Dealing with the rest. I would suggest blocking out a pocket of time (perhaps two hours) to go through the rest of the emails. Once you've answered those, you can put them into a folder and name it "completed" or something similar. This way you will know those emails are done and again they're separated from the emails you haven't gotten to yet. Follow this tip even if it takes a day or two to finish.
Returning phone calls.
  • Again, blocking out time for calls. You can divide up your day between answering emails and returning calls by blocking out time for each. So, take an hour to go through voice mail messages. Keep a log on paper recording the outcome of each message and if there's any follow up tasks that have to be done.
  • Take care of the important calls first and work through the rest afterwards and it might also take a day or two to complete. The important thing here is to not panic.
Pending Projects.
  • Picking back up where you left off. If you have projects where you're working with teammates, were there tasks that was to be completed while you were away? If so, ask for the updated status and record that into a log. Maybe there are parts that must be completed almost the moment you get back. Take care of those first.
  • To do list. I love making out this list and I call it my "daily game plan". I write down the most important things first and prioritize down my list. Then I check off each task as it's completed.
  • Stay organized. Task lists and planners are essential especially when you're coming back from vacation. I suggest a planner you can write in.
Other tips to mention are:
  • Take breaks. Don't just work all day long without walking away for a few minutes or taking a lunch. I usually take two breaks in the morning, one hour lunch and a couple 15 minute breaks in the afternoon. Breaks refreshes and clears my mind.
  • Stop at the end of the day. If you didn't check everything off your list, that's fine. Go back to it the next day. Don't beat yourself up because you didn't check off all the items on your task list. I had to stop doing this, because I am notorious for wanting to get everything done at the end of the day. Sometimes, you simply can't and that's fine.
  • Don't bring your work home. I know that not all the time this can be helped. And, I'm also talking about the emotional part too. Walk out of your office and leave the paperwork behind. Spend quality time with your family and enjoy yourself without bringing the work problems into the evening. This also applies to work at home jobs.
If you have tips you'd like to share, please let me know in the comments below. Again, these are very simple tricks I follow and in fact I will be doing that today so I'm anxious to see how well I do at following my own advice!