I’ve been noticing a lot of articles lately about “re-entry” to work after being away. They’re usually full of helpful tips like “Schedule your time away from Saturday to Saturday so you have a day to decompress before going back to work.” Sound advice, but I’m most interested in how I can manage and maintain my holiday frame of mind in the long term.
When I’m working week-in and week-out, I and my “system” become used to the pace. I’m in a rhythm. When I take a week or more off to actually go on holiday, I entrain myself to a completely different rhythm. My breathing slows down. It’s possible I’m getting more exercise. Even if I stay home and watch telly all week long, my muscles and brain waves are all experiencing a kind of relaxation that I just don’t get every day.
I believe there are two components of a successful holiday for any admin:
- Attaining a heightened level of connection to our “authentic selves” during the holiday. We all have our own preferences for what constitutes connection. It could be white water rafting or binge-watching Twin Peaks…
- Retaining as much of the relaxed state as possible upon returning to work. A holiday is always a good time to incorporate new strategies into our daily lives (“re-booting,” if you will) that maintain our newly rediscovered sense of connection.
(It can be argued that these considerations apply to anyone who works full-time, but admins are, more than many, responsible for a broad spectrum of work that can hit us like a ton of bricks once we sit back down at our desks.)
Strategies for Keeping that Holiday Glow…
- Set your out of office announcements so you have an afternoon before and a morning after your holiday (if you can arrange with your boss to leave you alone during those times as well, more power to you!) to work on your own administration
- Spend no more than an hour on the Sunday night prior to your return reviewing your email
- delete all unnecessary emails, including expired meeting notifications
- identify emails that need responses and add any new projects or requests to a list of items you’ll need to do and/or plan to do
- Resist the urge to respond to any email. Remember, you’re still off the grid — you have the unique opportunity to see and not be seen! You’re a spy, gathering intelligence that will benefit you tomorrow!
- Get to work 30 minutes early. But…don’t go in the building. Go to a local coffee shop, park or library and treat yourself to an island of calm. You’ll be amazed at how much more productive you’ll be for the rest of the day than if you’d actually gone into the office 30 minutes early! (You may even be motivated to do this every morning!)
- As soon as you get to your desk, pull out a stack of empty file folders, get a pen & paper (or whatever you use to take notes) and go back to your email. This is where you perform triage, determine anything new on your plate, and track it in whatever reminder system you use.
- If you start to feel overwhelmed, take two very slow, deep breaths. Literally. Just two deep breaths will plug you back into that relaxed frame of mind you experienced a scant few hours ago!
- Don’t try to decide what you’ll do first until you have looked at everything in your virtual and physical in boxes.
- If there is something in either your email or physical in box that will only take 2 minutes to do, do it. (Thanks to David Allen for the “Two Minute Rule.”)
- If The Boss is in the office, grab time with them as early as possible in the day — even if it’s only 15 minutes. They’ve been without you for at least a week now! Let them dump on you; this isn’t the time to share your holiday snaps, even if they ask you! They will have valuable information that will help you to prioritise your activities.
- Take lunch. Again, even if it’s only 15 minutes, your body and mind need to adapt from having been purely slothful to now being fantastically efficient, and that can’t be done all at once!