Who here wanted to throw their phone out the window when the alarm went off this morning? I certainly did.
Monday mornings are bad enough, but the first work day after the holiday break is especially bleak. After over a week of binging on Noche Buena leftovers, trying out all the presents from Christmas Eve, and plain old goofing around without having to worry about work or school the following day, most of us have probably forgotten how to function normally.
But alas, such is the reality that us non-1 percenters have to face, especially when a fair few of us probably blew through quite an amount last Christmas. Time to earn that all back until next December rolls around, I suppose.
Still, going back to work doesn’t have to be such a struggle. Here are a few things you can do to ease yourself back in after an indulgent holiday:
1. Make a doable to-do list.
One thing that makes going back to work after a long break so difficult is that you often forget how to do things. Recalling passwords and figuring out where to pick up where you left off on that project are very good examples of this.
So, rather than creating a generic to-do list with items like “Clean the house,” “Restart work project,” or “Work on article,” break them down into smaller daily or weekly goals. For instance, if you need to get cracking on that article, organize your preliminary tasks in an order that makes sense, such as: narrow down topic, gather resource materials, read up on the subject, create article outline, flesh out main points, and refine introductory and concluding paragraphs.
This way, you’ll be able to make bigger tasks more manageable and perhaps even prevent procrastinating.
2. Apply the Eisenhower matrix.
You might notice that certain things on your to-do list will require greater urgency than others, and this is where this step comes in.
The Eisenhower matrix organizes tasks into four quadrants:
- “Important and Urgent.”
- “Important and Not Urgent.”
- “Not Important and Urgent.”
- “Not Important and Not Urgent.”
This pertains to the most pressing tasks that could result in adverse consequences if they aren’t properly dealt with, such as answering a time-sensitive email from a client or replacing a blown fuse at home.
Essential tasks that don’t necessarily have a pressing deadline, but are still crucial to your goals fall under this category. For example, if your goal this year is to improve your fitness levels, exercise is important, but can be scheduled rather than executed immediately. The same goes for obtaining a certification that would benefit your career.
You know how you get swept up in answering your phone or checking your email whenever your phone gets a notification? That’s a prime example of activities that belong in this quadrant. Sure, they might require immediate action, but you can actually delegate them to other people so you can focus on Quadrant-1 tasks.
A big misconception is that activities in this particular quadrant should be done away with completely. That’s not exactly so. Okay, playing video games, mindless browsing, and Netflix marathons shouldn’t be your priority when you’ve got a lot of things on your plate, but you can always do them in your free time or when you need a breather.
Conversely, these may also apply to distractions that you need to mute or ignore while at work. So, unless your job requires you to monitor certain social media pages, you should probably put off checking your feed till after hours.
3. Apply the Pomodoro technique.
If you’re finding it really hard to focus, you can try the Pomodoro technique.
To begin, set your timer to 25 mins. Once it begins, devote yourself to deep work until the timer goes off, which is a signal for a five minute break where you can grab a cup of coffee or, I dunno, watch a random cat video or something on Youtube. Set the timer for another 25 mins. and repeat. As an additional incentive, you can give yourself a longer break after four Pomodoro cycles.
The 25 minute – 5 minute specification just serves as a guide, by the way. You can modify it according to your own rhythm and needs.
4. Reboot during your lunch break.
Halfway through the day, look over your to-do list and reassess your priorities. Do any updates this morning require any changes to the day’s itinerary? If so, feel free to carry them out so you can finish off your to-do list more efficiently.
Furthermore, you can also prevent the dreaded midday slump by going out for a short walk after you’ve eaten and/or listening to your favorite inspirational podcast.
5. Clean your desk.
It sounds fairly simple, but your working environment can have a significant impact on your morale and productivity.
So, take a good look at your desk. Could your papers be filed in a more organized manner? Does the surface need tidying? Are there things on the desk that you could already dispose of?
Inspiring working environments can lose their effect after some time, so feel free to apply a fresh coat of paint (provided it’s your home office) or to put up some new prints or pictures that you find especially invigorating to look at.
Lastly, don’t forget that there’s no need to banish the holiday spirit the moment you set foot in your office. The real world will intrude upon your days much sooner than you’d like, and so long as you can still get stuff done, there’s no harm in hanging on to a bit of festive cheer for as long as you can.