Are you physically back from vacation, but your heart and mind are still at the beach? Your re-entry doesn’t have to be so painful if you alter your mindset to embrace a “fresh start.” Researchers studying the correlations between work and vacation have shown that diving back in at full speed negates the physical and psychological benefits of getting away. Returning to a frenzied pace will actually worsen your state of mind and raise your cortisol (stress) levels. Those same studies show that a more deliberate approach to re-entry will prolong your sense of calm and make you more productive.
This is the third article in our series on “Gearing up Fall.” We endorse 7 Disciplines that guide our approach to work (or at least to marketing and communications): Think, Plan, Write, Move, Talk. Laugh, Assess. We apply these disciplines to overcome inertia and to make sure our work is infused with creativity and fun.
Below are 7 ways to integrate the disciplines for your re-entry to the office.
(You don’t have to do all 7 on your first day back. That would be impossible and is the exact opposite of what we are recommend.)
THINK: You should be returning rested and refreshed, which gives you the brain space to be more creative. You have a rare opportunity to take advantage of the renewed clarity that comes from detaching for a while. Make time to look around and observe what is happening all around you. What pops into your mind first? What new ideas can you can come up with? Set a timer and spend 10 minutes journaling and brainstorming, responding to your observations. If you’re doing it right, there will be drawings and sketches and lots of exclamation points!
PLAN: Give yourself a day before resuming your normal duties. The most successful people share the common discipline of “planning to plan.” A short-term mindset makes you more susceptible to the tyranny of the urgent, whereas long-term planning and reverse engineering empowers you to take focused next steps. Don’t waste your new “brain” answering email. Take your ideas and put them into a cohesive PLAN to further your vision.
WRITE: Step #1 took you through a 10-minute “brain dump.” You’ve got the beginning of your story and your plans are taking shape. Now, take time to WRITE your story. Take your ideas (from #2) and connect them with what matters to your clients.
MOVE: When we say “move,” we typically mean, “just do something, anything” to get started. In returning from vacation, we also mean to take a break and physical move. You can reclaim many of the the psychological benefits of vacation by building breaks into your day, and even in the middle of a project. Set your alarm and go for a brisk walk outside with your team, or if it’s raining, do laps around the office (we bet people will LOVE this). Take a meeting outside or do a picnic lunch, anything to get moving. Working on the same things in the same place at the same time actually dulls your mind. We recently heard a speaker say that “neurons that fire together wire together” (your thinking adjusts to your space and activities, which basically means your brain gets bored). Fire some new neurons by shaking things up.
TALK: Now is the perfect time to get on the phone with clients and prospects. Listen to what they are saying, and ask how you can better serve them. Share photos of your vacation on social media. We find that personal (but not TMI personal) photos create a sense of warmth to which people respond. Make some lunch dates or plan to meet colleagues for coffee. Our research shows over and over that building and solidifying these relationships pays huge dividends. From an “inside the office” point of view, be deliberate about reconnecting with your team, one-to-one and as a group. (Please don’t do all of these meetings the first week!) syShare your new ideas and get their feedback. Loop them into the planning you’ve begun and build consensus. Just keep talking, the collaboration will pay off.
LAUGH: Your “fresh start” offers the perfect space to bring some joy into your work. If you are not having fun, what is the point? Weave some fun into your routine, recognizing when it’s time to take a break. Enjoy your colleagues and showcase your team having fun on social media. It will make you memorable and approachable.
ASSESS: Stepping away enables you to more objectively evaluate how things are going. The gift of space allows for perspective that is hard to come by when you are up to your knees in work. Now is the time (before the fall rush) to consider eliminating programs or projects that are ineffective. Embrace a growth mindset to model transparency, demonstrating how to use mistakes to improve your process.
In the meantime, enjoy these last weeks of summer and hopefully a bountiful harvest of tomatoes and some “deck wine.” Create some space to enter this next season focused and prepared.
And maybe buy some new pens…nothing says “starting over ” like brand new supplies.