Most of us enjoyed a much-needed break during the Holiday season. Spending time with family and friends, enjoying good meals, clinking glasses of adult beverages and taking time to rest. There were no thoughts of answering phones, responding to emails, packing lunches and the infamous daily commute. For other less fortunate folks, their break consisted of placing the file of resumes and job prospects aside until their job search commences once again. New Year’s resolutions were filled with the usual ideas. Losing weight, becoming a better person, concentrating on paying down a debt, saving additional money for retirement or finally getting a lawyer to draft a will for instance. But, everyone knows vacations come to an abrupt halt and one must return to the reality of going back to work or searching for it. That is unless you are most fortunate to be retired…

The following ideas might help you to adjust your mindset as you transition into a dedicated work schedule.

The routine of things

You had a routine before you started a vacation and now it is time to get back to basics. Dusting off the alarm clock, setting it to wake you up at a very early hour and going to bed at a reasonable time. For some it is hard to fall asleep on the night before because your mind wonders what you can expect when you arrive at work.

  • Start Fresh

My recommendation would be to get to your desk and prioritize tasks in such a way to drill down on every task that awaits. Having a clear plan would help you make your first day a success. Not to mention setting up a routine for days ahead.

  • Create a To-Do List

Consider using a “To-Do” list. This is where you write down the title – Things to Do. Then, allocate numbers – 1 through 10 to allow an opportunity to write down the 10 most important tasks you feel need your attention. Once you have them written down, re-organize them into priority using 1 through 10 as their individual designation. If you can complete all the tasks in one day – great. Otherwise recopy the list of things you couldn’t finish onto a new “To-Do” list and leave it on your desk for the next day.

  • Start each day by reviewing the To-Do List

When you arrive the next morning, you will already have a list of things ‘you’ need to address immediately. If other tasks arise along the way, add them to the “to-do” list. Don’t be surprised if you have more than 10 things on the to-do list as this is quite normal. The important thing to remember is to continually prioritize every task but the one essential thing to remember is to complete as many tasks as possible and move on.

Remove any chance of distraction

  • Catching up with coworkers

It is quite normal to come back after the Holidays and talk about what you did, who you visited, what you received under the Christmas tree and so on. Bear in mind though, every minute you spend talking about your vacation decreases the amount of time you should allocate to set yourself up for success. I am not suggesting you ignore your coworkers. What I am suggesting is to allocate a certain time to this specific discussion –  then go to work.

  • Everyone feels the same

Believe me, all your coworkers are feeling the same. They know they must work but are procrastinating too…and they won’t mind a gentle nudge to get them on track. You will appreciate focusing on getting yourself back on track as well. If you have a door on your office – close it to indicate to others you need some alone time. This will also provide an opportunity to tell yourself “my door is closed so I should be working” or perhaps it is a way to shield you from possible distractions in other areas of the office building.

  • Make an appointment with your coworkers

I know this might sound strange however; allowing team members to draw you away with lengthy discussions causes you to lose focus. If a co-worker needs to speak with you remember to ask them why. This would provide a chance for you to assess if their conversation is a priority. You be the judge…if you can address it quickly then do so. If you feel it will take longer suggest a time for them to come back when you can focus. Trust me…this approach will keep you on track.

  • Try making an appointment with yourself

I have tried this approach many times in the past and it works. It is a great way to force yourself to complete a task, write a report, take a course, answer emails or any other reason to keep you on track. Having an appointment not only specifies when you are busy but it also tells coworkers you are busy too. You could set aside recurring appointments with yourself that will ensure you have the time to complete tasks hence making you more efficient in the end.

Buckle in and Go to Work

  • Check your voicemail

You will feel very apprehensive when you sit at your desk for the first time. You might ask yourself “where do I start?” I would suggest starting with your voicemail. Creating a new greeting could be the trigger that will have a compound effect. Of course, listening to your voicemail messages is another way to get into the groove.

  • Clear your inbox

Then you will be faced with what seems like a million emails. One way to make reading them a little more manageable is to sort them by subject temporarily. You might notice multiple emails with the same subject. Look closely at the subject line and ask yourself “Is the subject important enough to warrant an entry on my to-do list?” Another question one could ask is “are any of the emails low priority?” If so, put these aside until you address the higher priority subjects.

  • Take notes on the To-Do List

It shouldn’t take long to organize your inbox into more manageable blocks. Once you have a good feel for the subject line and you have made appropriate notes – revert to the previous email setting. I like sorting my emails by date received…that way I minimize the chance of missing an email that might get incorporated with another subject’s email. The idea of this task is to prioritize the emails while making an entry in the to-do list to address the most important subjects.

Maintaining a clean workspace

  • Clean your desk

Starting fresh is a great opportunity for a little spring cleaning. Disinfectant wipes are a good choice to remove the dust that built up while you were away. Allocate an hour to sort through the papers on your desk, thumb through those sticky notes and take another look at your file folders. The idea here is to clear your desk of stale dated tasks or employ the recycling bin for those items that are no longer needed.

  • Try to maintain a clean desk moving forward

Be cognizant about creating notes, files and sticky notes and forgetting to discard them when a task is complete. Your desk will become quite messy if you don’t. As soon as a task is complete remove any evidence of the task by filing it away or recycling appropriately. Like the saying goes – cleanliness is next to godliness and so having a clean desk would make for a more efficient experience.

As you can see, adjusting your mindset is very valuable. Using some or all of the suggestions outlined would be a good fit too. Try it out and leave a comment to let us know how you did.