The Way We Work

Rides at a theme park don’t last forever, no matter how much we like them, and neither can your vacation. Eventually, all good things must come to an end. Unfortunately, returning to work afterward may feel a bit like getting off that roller coaster — dizziness, inability to focus, and the hint of a stomachache may all occur on The First Day Back.

The beauty of returning from vacation, however, is that it’s a chance for a fresh start. Instead of dreading your post-vacation inbox and to-do lists, here are some tips to help you seize this opportunity to reset your job and take your productivity to a new level:

  1. Tackle the Inbox. Whether you come home to dozens or hundreds, you are bound to be behind. Commit your first day to blitzing through your emails. Be ruthless when it comes to filing and clicking items into the trash. This is not the time to read that supposedly hilarious forward from your cousin — trash it or stick it in a “read when bored” folder. Stay on task and keep moving, giving tidy, professional responses to emails when necessary or adding items to your to-do list as needed.

To-Do List Dos and Don’ts

  • Don’t write long explanations for tasks. This is a quick list, not an entire book.
  • Do be clear. If you won’t remember what “corner graphic” is about when working down your list, elaborate enough so that you will.
  • Don’t put anything on the list that you’re capable of accomplishing in the next three minutes, because if it’s that easy, you should just stop and do it now.
  • Do prioritize clearly. Rating tasks on a scale of 1 to 4 sometimes works –- with the 4s being your urgent tasks and the 1s being the tasks that can handle the back burner.
  • Do consider trying an online task program like Remember the Milk or HiTask, if you haven’t already –- you might find they beat the old pen and paper hands down.
  1. Assess Your Priorities. Now that you have caught up on anything work-related that transpired while you were away, it’s time to figure out where you’re at currently. What projects are due? What questions do you have? Add these to your to-do list, but begin to shuffle things around to reflect the urgency and importance of what needs to be done now.
  1. Identify Your Cringe-Triggers. When you look at your newly organized to-do list, which items make you wish you were still on vacation? Take some time to think about why you don’t like these tasks and whether or not it’s necessary for you to do them anymore. Can they be delegated, eliminated, or can you simply say no? Seriously consider the power you have to create love for your job by just eliminating the parts you hate.
  1. Proactively Seek Change. Don’t allow yourself to slip into the patterns of procrastination that may have bogged you down pre-vacation. Now is the time for a much-needed reset, so put these changes as high on your to-do list as you can. If it means talking with your boss about shifting certain tasks to another employee, set the date for that talk now — not later.
  1. Embrace Your Work. Maybe pre-vacation you felt the burnout of the daily grind. Hopefully time away reset your motivation levels, but if you’re still lacking enthusiasm it’s time to wrap your arms around those feelings. Try to remember what drew you to your job to begin with (even if it’s as basic as the money on payday). Set this motivation in front of you, on your computer wallpaper, or as a sticky note on your desk. Practice gratefulness for your job, your coworkers and your life, for whatever reasons you can.

We’ve all felt that tension of The First Day Back. Turn yours into an amazing fresh start and reset your job to kickstart a new work life.

Any advice for the first day back from vacation? Share yours or respond to these tips in the comments below.


Erica Benton

Social Media Guru

Erica Benton joined oDesk in 2009, bringing with her nearly a decade of small business and freelance experience, and a love of all things social. Her passion for startups, technology and marketing was born during her tenure with Kulesa Faul Public Relations, while she learned the art of entrepreneurship firsthand through Equine Alternatives, a business she founded while earning her Bachelor of Science degree from… read more