Everyone’s been there. In fact I am there right now. I currently have 588 emails in my inbox and absolutely no idea what is going on with any of the projects that I merrily handballed to my colleagues before I swanned off around Europe. Don’t worry, I am not boasting - it is not nearly as glamorous as it sounds; most of it was spent with my parents in Leighton Buzzard. “Where is that?” I hear you cry. Yeah, that’s what everyone says. Needless to say it is not really a tourist destination, unless you want to cruise at 4mph on a narrow boat down a canal. And that is the glamorous part.
Back to the point. You’ve had your holiday, you have arrived back home in one piece, you’ve done your washing and got over jet lag - if you haven’t, you need to check out these great travel tips, which work for both business and pleasure.
Now it is time to go back to work. Imagine that you haven’t even looked at your work emails the whole time you have been away, or spared your team and projects even a thought. What can you do to stop yourself from drowning as soon as you turn your computer on?
Five easy ways to catch up fast
1. Get into the right frame of mind the night before. Tempting as it is, don’t fly in on Monday at 6am and head directly to the office. You’ll feel terrible, look terrible and perform terribly. Not a great start. Make sure you are back home at least 24 hours before you are due back at work. This way you can unpack, relax and ease yourself back into familiar surroundings. Sounds stupidly simple, but it makes the world of difference. If you’ve done a long haul flight try to stay awake during the day so you sleep through the night. Mind you, this is easier said than done.
2. Cull your emails. It might sound bad but 588 really isn’t that many. I haven’t even finished with the following recommendations yet and I started with over 2000. Firstly, group all the emails by ‘From’ and delete all the non-essential ones such as Google Alerts, Facebook notifications etc. Before you say anything, I have to get Facebook notifications sent to my work email because I am an administrator for our work page, so there. Then group them by ‘Subject’ and delete all except for the top one in each subject matter group. This means you can read the current status first before scrolling through the rest of the content if necessary. It also stops you responding to an email when someone has already done it for you. Lastly, put all emails you are Cc’d on into a separate folder in your inbox, so you can check them out when you have some free time.
3. Have a work in progress meeting (WIP) with your team. Have a WIP with anyone you handed projects over to before you went on holiday. It is much easier to get an update in person rather than plough through email after email to see where everything is at. A clear status update given in person, or over the phone for remote teams, means everyone is on the same page. Then you can go back and delete all the emails around those projects you were Cc’d into.
4. Catch up with your boss. Ask for a half hour sit down with your boss and find out what are their most important projects for the next month and what they need you to do to help. This way you can prioritise your tasks and deliver on the most significant tasks first.
5. Don’t be too hard on yourself. No one is a machine and it can be difficult settling back into your day to day routine. These ways to boost your productivity will help you maximise use of your time. If you haven’t got everything done in the first day back, which is highly likely, don’t start stressing out. Make sure you have delivered on any hard deadlines and the rest will follow shortly. You’ll be back in the swing of things in no time.
Remember, no one expects you to be up to speed in the first half hour of being back at work but they do expect you to show enthusiasm and willing. So turn that frown upside down and remember that it is work that pays for all those nice holidays, even if they are to Leighton Buzzard.
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