It’s fair to say that people hate the beginning of January almost as much they love the end of December. No more holidays to look forward to, vacation days to relish, company parties to attend, or social gatherings to pencil into our calendars.
I feel your pain—after all the wonderful merriment of last year, we have to go back to the office and do work. Bleh.
I wish I could tell you to coast for a bit, but the reality is that this is the time when your job probably starts to pick up—and so your productivity needs to, too.
To help you get through the struggles of holiday jet lag, here are some tips for getting yourself back in the work game, starting today:
Get Your To-Dos in Order
First things first, get organized. Not just because this will make the rest of your week easier, but because it’s a simple task that will make you feel motivated to get more done.
So, grab a piece of paper and pencil or start a new note on your computer and list all of your to-dos for this month (this isn’t the time for a fancy organization system). Then, sort them by urgency or deadline using numbers (so that it’s literally a laundry list).
Then, decide how you’ll spend today—you’re probably barely making it through the first two hours of your day back, so it’s best to start small. Give yourself one to three big tasks to complete—ones your boss or client is breathing down your neck to do—and save the rest of the stuff for later in the week.
Triage Your Inbox
You probably have a lot of emails. Today’s not the day to get to inbox zero. Instead, you’re going to want to create three email labels (here’s how to do that in Gmail and Outlook) that are named: Needs an answer today, Needs an answer this week, probably deletable.
Then, going by the subject line alone, filter all these emails into these three folders. After you do that, only focus on that first folder today (and save that last folder for Friday when you’re done with work for the week).
Remember: If something’s truly urgent, the sender will probably ping you again.
Push Off Non-Urgent Meetings
Eventually, you’re going to have to face the thing you dread the most: meetings. But since you’re already feeling overwhelmed with tasks, it’s wise to use your time checking things off your to-do list, not sitting in hour-long brainstorming sessions.
So, if you can, reschedule those meetings on your calendar for later in the week. If something’s really urgent, try starting the conversation over email (lucky you, we have the perfect template to do just that).
Give Yourself Breathing Room
Today’s when you believe in the power of breaks—seriously. If you think you’re going to be able to focus for nine hours straight after spending several days lounging around, you don’t know yourself well enough.
So, make sure you’re taking lots of breaks throughout the day (even if it’s for five minutes to grab a coffee in the kitchen), and actually use your lunch time to eat away from your desk. The easier today goes, the easier it will be to get through the week. You don’t want to burn all your energy out the first day back, right?
There’s unfortunately no secret formula for hitting the ground running after a holiday. My hope is that you’re refreshed enough from your time away that you just might be excited to return to work—or at least energized to get back to it.
The best thing you can do is be kind to yourself and give yourself some slack, even if others don’t (like your demanding boss). Do the best you can, pat yourself on the back for all the things you do do, and before you know it you’ll be back to your most efficient self in no time.
Photo of person at desk courtesy of Hero Images/Getty Images.
Previously an editor for The Muse, Alyse is proud to prove that yes, English majors can change the world. She’s written almost 500 articles for The Muse on anything from productivity tips to cover letters to bad bosses to cool career changers, many of which have been featured in Fast Company, Forbes, Inc., CNBC's Make It, USA Today College, Lifehacker, Mashable, and more. She calls many places home, including Illinois where she grew up and the small town of Hamilton where she attended Colgate University, but she was born to be a New Yorker. In addition to being an avid writer and reader, Alyse loves to dance, both professionally and while waiting for the subway.More from this Author