Getting back in the productive groove after an extended break can be tough.
No matter what your extended break looked like (i.e. vacation, maternity leave, sabbatical, recovery, or a stay-at-home order/self-quarantine) those first few days back can be weird, hard, and amazing all at the same time. 🤯
Heck, depending on HOW LONG the break was, you might have even forgotten what working and having a schedule or routine was like!! 😳
While that’s probably unlikely, getting back in the productive groove may still look and feel like getting back on your bicycle after not having ridden it for a while. In other words, the muscle memory is there, but it might take you a few minutes (or days) to get your bearings, figure things out, and feel comfortable doing #allthethings again.
8 WAYS TO GET BACK IN THE PRODUCTIVE GROOVE AFTER AN EXTENDED BREAK
Whether you’re coming back from a relaxing vacation, sweet as can be maternity leave, restful sabbatical, rough recovery, or mind-blowing quarantine, there are things you can do that will help you get back in the productive groove.
In this post, I’m sharing 8 ways you can prepare to be productive and then actually be productive after an extended break. These strategies will not only help you regain your productivity but will also ease your transition from not working (or working very little) to business as usual (maybe even better than usual).
Editor’s Note: You should know that I have used these exact strategies I’m about to share with you multiple times in multiple ways like every year when I come back from my 2-week vacation, after my health trauma + emergency surgery + long recovery in 2017, and most recently while coming out of this stay-at-home order/self-quarantine.
Ready to get back in the productive groove?! I bet you are!! #keepreading 🤓
STEP 1: PLAN AHEAD
Before your extended break or a couple of days before you plan to come back, I recommend sitting down and doing the following:
- Brain dump all of the things you have to do. Notice that I said have to do NOT want to do. Those first couple of days when you get back are for catching up and getting your bearings NOT for going after big dreams and diving into new projects. You can do that AFTER you get everything back on track.
- Organize those things into a list you can READ (because brain dumps are often scattered and messy). Then, prioritize the urgent and important tasks using either a number or colored pen/highlighter system. (Note: Things like cleaning out your inbox, checking in with clients, and supporting your students should be at the top of your list!!)
- Schedule time to tackle each task. You can’t just write things down or make a list and then stop. You have to actually set aside time to tackle each and every single one. Because trust me, if it’s not scheduled, it’s not getting done.
Making a plan (otherwise known as preplanning) promotes positive performance and WILL result in you getting caught up on those tasks and checking them all off your list!!
Pro Tip: If you are putting up an email autoresponder for your extended break (ahem, you should be), I recommend leaving it on for 1-2 days after you get back. This will allow you to get through all of the emails that came in while you were away as well as wrangle any new emails that come your way with ease.
Related Post: How to Get Absolutely Anything Done
STEP 2: GET YOUR WORKSPACE READY FOR YOU
At the same time you are planning for your return, I recommend getting your workspace ready for go-time, too. Clear away any trash or debris, do a quick clean of your drawers, and even re-style your workspace so it’s an inviting and equally pleasant and productive space to be.
I know that getting back in the productive groove after an extended break can be hard, but returning to a messy workspace will only make it harder. Make that space somewhere you want (and can’t wait) to be so you can hit the ground running easily.
Related Post: How to Set Up and Love Your Workspace
STEP 3: ACKNOWLEDGE AHEAD OF TIME THAT RE-ENTRY CAN BE MESSY
You know as well as I do that things don’t always go according to plan. Sometimes those first few days back will not be as smooth or go as well as you hoped and planned they would. All the planning and preparation may get chucked out the window for one reason or another.
AND THAT’S OK!!
Re-entry can be messy. You can plan and prepare for it as best you can, but remember that there is only so much that you can control. Let go of what you can’t control and give your all (aka your very best) to what you can.
If all else fails, take some deep breaths. Regroup. Reboot. And try again.
STEP 4: JUMP BACK INTO YOUR WORK AND LIFE ROUTINES
During your extended break, it’s possible (maybe even probable) that you let your work and life routines slide. That’s totally fine!! But now that you’re trying to get back in the productive groove, it’s time to jump back into those work and life routines that you love and that keep your days running smooth.
If you don’t currently have work and life routines that you love and that keep your days, weeks, and months running smooth, let’s fix that!!
My Fresh Start Systems and Running on Routines Course Bundle might be just the thing you need to whip your daily life and business routines into shape!! 😉
STEP 5: EASE BACK INTO YOUR SCHEDULE // WORK WEEK
In order to get back in the productive groove after an extended break, it’s really important that you don’t come back to a week packed with projects, deadlines, calls, collaborations, presentations, and meetings. You need those first couple of days to get caught up, get organized, and get back into work mode. Trying to do ALL THE THINGS will only lead to stress and overwhelm.
In most cases, your extended break will be planned in advance, which means you can plan HOW you want to return. I recommend giving yourself a few days to get back in the swing of things before getting back to regularly scheduled programming.
Pro Tip: Block off those catch-up days in your online scheduler or booking software so they’re not even an option for clients. Do the same on your personal/work calendar so you’re not tempted to schedule any new things.
STEP 6: MAKE YOUR TO-DO LIST MANAGEABLE
Your to-do list after an extended break is likely to be extensive. But that doesn’t mean you have to get all the things done in one day (nor should you even try). Even if you’re really excited to get back to work, writing out a to-do list as long as your arm is never a good thing.
Your to-do list is NOT your wishlist. You should still be scheduling out your days with no more than 3 main tasks per day.
Pro Tip: If your extended break was a planned one, I always, always, always recommend preparing and creating as much as you can beforehand. Things like blog posts, newsletters, and social media posts can all be created for the week you get back in advance. That way you can focus on getting things under control without also dealing with time-consuming creative tasks like content creation.
STEP 7: TAKE BREAKS
You just got back from an extended break and here I am telling you to take more breaks. Contrary to popular belief, taking breaks does AMAZING things for your productivity!! Something as simple as standing up and stretching, walking to the kitchen to refresh your beverage, or playing with your fur baby for five minutes can do wonders for your concentration and overall productive output.
Pro Tip: I like to schedule my days in one and two-hour time blocks with a five or ten-minute break built into the end of each block.
STEP 8: GET AN EARLY START
I truly believe that mornings are for getting stuff done and so I recommend getting an early start (or at least getting up when you say you’re going to get up).
It’s the best way to make sure you start the day your way!!
My favorite Jim Rohn quote says, “Either you run the day or the day runs you.” Starting your day on your terms is THE BEST WAY to get back in the productive groove!!
Related Post: How to Become a Morning Person (And Why You Should)
I hope these tips help you to regain your productivity after an extended break!!
Let me know in the comments what you’re coming back from and what tip was most helpful for you upon your return!!
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