a blurred image of cyclists racing to represent a productive first day back to work

Do you know that dip in productivity that you get after coming back from vacation? Where the first couple of days or even that first week goes slowly, and you tell yourself that you’re just getting back into the groove of things? This is what is known as the ‘post-vacation blues’ and many lawyers, accountants, and consultants struggle with it. While the transition from relaxation to work mode is a difficult one, there are things that you can do to make it just that little bit easier on yourself. Things that will prevent you from having to firefight to catch up with work and undoing all the lovely effects of your break in the first place. Here are 5 things that you can do to make that first day back to work as productive as possible!

What to do BEFORE that first day back to work to make it a WIN

The mistake that many of us make on that first day back to work after vacation is that we don’t prepare for it. We return to work relaxed and refreshed, perhaps with good intentions and even a few goals in mind that we want to achieve, but we don’t have a plan of action. Without a plan, it is unavoidable that these good intentions quickly become wishes. To have the most productive day possible on your first day back to work, you need to think about these 5 things before you’re due to go back. Once you’re back in work mode then, you will know exactly what you need to do on that first day and moving forward to actually achieve what you set out to. (Download our free weekly planner template for help with this!)

1. Think about what you want to be different

a purple flower blooming from yellow ones to symbolise thinking differently Often, we go back to work and just start doing work. If we’re doing this, then how can we expect anything to be different? How can we expect to grow and move forward? The first secret to having the most productive first day back to work is to think about this. Ask yourself “what is it that I want to change?”  When you really think about this, about what your intentions are when you go back to work, you can start right and avoid just slotting straight back into the busyness. After all, no one likes feeling stressed and as if they never even had a vacation in the first place. (Read: The ultimate guide to switching off when you are on holiday)

2. Look at what habits you’ll need to change

a sign on a desk saying no bad days to represent being productive on your first day back to workAs we said previously, intentions without action are just wishes. Once you know your intentions (i.e. what you want to change) when you return to work, you need to think about how you can make them happen. What action will you take? When it comes to taking action, you need to look at your habits. Think about how you start your day. Do you always start the same, something like switching your computer on and getting a cup of water or tea or coffee before you dive into your emails? Most of what we do in the day is out of habit and many habits cause the time to pass quickly leaving us feeling like the day has run away. So these are what you need to be looking at – what habits do you need to make or break to make sure that you achieve what you want to when you go back to work? Read: The 4 foundational habits you need to master to always achieve your goals

3. Make prioritising a priority

a sheet of paper with goal planning on it for the first day back to workIf you have returned to work and you don’t have mounting emails (which only really happens after the Christmas/New Year period since most people are off), don’t be tempted to do nothing! Make the most of this rare downtime. As you well know, it isn’t long before the emails come in drones and you’re bogged down in the thick of it again. To start as productively as possible, take this time to prioritise. What work gives you the best bang for the buck? What high-value tasks could you be doing now while you have the time? If you want to be super organised and productive, you could even do this before you leave for your vacation. Write down a list of your key priorities and these will be what you will get started on straight away on your first day back.

Prioritising and planning is our forte. If you need help, download our free weekly planner template, with full instructions, to make sure you prioritise what needs to get done.

A lot of the time, productiveness is just taking the time out to plan your day and prioritise! (Read: How does frog eating help me be more productive?)

4. Plan to use your time wisely

a business man looking at his watch to represent time management on the first day back to workIf you’ve prepared and prioritised, you can take the time to build those all-important relationships on your first day back to work after vacation. Having strong interpersonal relationships at work are essential for working effectively and for networking (so prioritise this). Rather than jumping straight back into work or getting distracted by social media, use this time to chat with people. If you’re working in the office, take the time to find out how your colleagues are and if they enjoyed their time off. If you’re working from home, this can be more difficult but make the effort to call people or at least message or email them. That first week back is prime time for strengthening relationships as nobody is in the throes of work yet, so make the most of it. Give yourself the intention that you’re going to be focused today; know your goal for the day and how you will achieve it, get your head down when you’re working and when you’re not, have a chat with the people that you haven’t seen in ages either face to face (socially distanced) or on the phone.

5. Practice looking after your health

a woman sitting and meditating outsideThe last step of having a productive first day back is one that is incredibly beneficial for your productivity in the long term, not to mention your focus and mindset too. Like the rest of the steps, however, you need to start doing this before your first day back to work to be able to do it confidently and reap the benefits from it. As it’s so easy to quickly lose that vacation feeling and with it, all the benefits that come with having a break from work, one of the best things that you can do for your mental health when you start back at work is to practice gratitude. On your first day, write down three or four things that you’re grateful for. Perhaps it’s something that is going really well in your life at the moment or something that you enjoyed while on your vacation. Whatever it is, write them down and take a moment to really appreciate them. Not only will this make the transition into work just a little bit easier, but it will also help you retain a little of that relaxed vacation feeling too. As well as practising gratitude, it is extremely beneficial to practice mindfulness too. Before long, you will get pulled into the whirlwind of stress that comes with work so it’s important that you take the time to ground yourself. Mindful activities such as taking a short walk or focusing on your breathing for 3-5 minutes can help you get back to the present and separate you from the stress and anxiety that is going on around you. Read: How to curb your overwhelming anxiety (particularly when worrying about the impact of CV-19 on your career and livelihood)

Make the most of that first day back to work

How amazing would it feel to not only have an actual break but to also have an incredibly productive first day back to work? How amazing would it feel to actually achieve the goals that you set for yourself? These intentions, these goals, don’t have to just be wishes. You can actually achieve them. You just have to prepare and prioritise to be productive from the get-go.

Don’t forget to download our free weekly planner template to be as productive as possible when you return to work. 

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