Each time I come back from holiday, whether long or short, I find the task of throwing myself back into work a seemingly insurmountable challenge. Is it laziness? Is it my penchant for procrastination? Or is it the trepidation of knowing what will undoubtedly spring from the simple act of opening my laptop? Whatever it is I decided not to beat myself up about it. While on the surface it may seem wrong that a freshly holidayed human would have any problem jumping straight back into stuff, it certainly is the case with me, so I’m sure it’s the same for others. And I know I’m not the only person that gets Sunday Dread a few hours before bedtime on a Sunday, when the realisations hits that tomorrow is a work day - well, don’t worry these feelings are actually responsibility hiding. Yes indeedy and I’ve got a few ingenious habits to help you manage it.
1. Make a list at the END of your day
There is nothing more frustrating to the mighty brain than not knowing what you are actually supposed to be doing with your day and lists are great for that. Making your tomorrow’s list at the end of today’s day is the smartest way to ensure you’re working efficiently from the get-go each morning. At the end of each day you will know exactly which tasks you have already worked on and the ones you need to prioritise in order to be able to work seamlessly from this point onward the following day.
This list is your new morning cereal and should be consumed at your desk as soon as you get in (don’t really eat your list, it’s a figure of speech - how can you refer to your list throughout the day if you’ve eaten it already?).
2. Only check emails twice a day
Yep this might sound really scary or even impossible because we seem to spend much of our time on email, but you see that is the problem. You are not being paid to communicate with colleagues all day; you are being paid to complete a job whilst being able to communicate effectively all day.
I would say 11am and 3pm are good times to check emails, but choose two times that work for you. This means you must refuse to check mail outside of those time slots and concentrate instead on doing the job at hand. As things pop up during the day add them to your list in priority order as much as possible and reorganise at the end of the day for tomorrow’s new list.
3. Difficult tasks go first
Did you know that most convicts are granted parole from hearings that are held in the mornings? Experts have put this down to natural physiological needs of the judges to need food and rest as the day wears in. Can you imagine something as sensitive and life affecting as prisoners and judges being swayed by a little bread and butter? Insane right, but ‘tis true and the same goes for us civilians too; we have the most energy first thing in the morning until around midday and then a surge again after eating lunch, but that starts to dwindle around 4pm - so spend your mornings doing the tough stuff.
4. Play in your work day
We become smarter workers when we dedicate specific time slots and time frames for our daily activities and this should include fun things to keep you happy during your work day. If you are a serious worker, your boss isn’t gonna care that you check into Facebook for 10 minutes or watch a You Tube video or share a couple of jokes around the office, but it should be done only in your (particularly small) allocated time slot. And remember point 3 about the convicts and judges - so playtime should be after 4pm when your brain is at its mushiest anyway.
5. Find freedom in a Procrastination Pad
Ooh boy this is my favourite work toy and you have no idea of the pure freedom you’ll give your mind until you start using this. It is the simplest tool that has a massive impact on the work day. All you need is a small and unserious notepad onto which you will jot down every tiny thing you think of that could potentially distract you from the task at hand. When you have a spare moment, and ONLY when you have a spare moment, allow yourself to review the list on your notepad and do the things you have time for. Whether it is reading that article, checking phone messages, or visiting that site - whatever it is, put that naughty little distraction safely to bed on the Procrastination Pad.
Start each new day with fresh page on the notebook, erm I mean the super Procrastination Pad.
6. Work for an hour at a time
We can’t help but become lethargic and lose concentration after sitting for hours at a desk, this is to do with a reduction in glucose levels, staying in the same place for too long and usually not doing much else than staring at a screen while you do your daily tasks. For super productivity, creativity and extended energy levels it is advised to take tiny breaks often throughout the day. Have a timer (preferably silent, but flashing) on your phone that you set for 60 minutes - when it goes off you must stand up and leave your desk for 3-4 minutes. When you return to your desk set the timer for 60 minutes again. During those break periods try NOT thinking about the task you were working on.
Aim to drink a small glass of water during each break and find fresh air if possible, but even a gentle walk around the building or a chat with a colleague or finding a quiet place to stretch is perfect time spent too.