We’ve all been there — the dreaded Monday after a long weekend. You’re relaxed, refreshed, and in this case, full of turkey and mashed potatoes.
But how do you get back into the productive swing of things when all you want to be doing is leisurely sipping on your second cup of coffee while re-watching Jessica Jones or tuning in to the fourth hour of the Today show? (We’re with you on both of those.)
Here are our tips for working smarter after a long weekend:
1. Put your email inbox to the side. You may feel the urge to plow through all of your emails right away — this is just going to make you wish you were still wrapped up in your blanket. Skim through your inbox (especially if you’ve been on a smartphone hiatus) and see if there is anything that jumps out at you as an instant and very important request (like someone needing a file for a meeting in 5 minutes).
2. Make your productivity playlist. If you don’t listen to music at work, you can skip this step (and we’re in awe of your talents). But if you follow the rule of “one earbud means you can interrupt, two earbuds means do not disturb”, we find it’s best to make a pump up playlist. Maybe you already have one — and maybe you’re saying “Hey guys, this sounds like a procrastination technique.” Well, you’re partially right. But by the time you make your productivity mixtape, you’ll be raring to go and will have check one item off of your to do list. We recommend a favorite album that you’ll bop your head to or a roaring classical selection.
3. Get a glass (or bottle) of water. Most of us will want to reach for the coffee, but make sure to stay hydrated.
4. Make your to do list. Whether you’re using a task list software, a word doc or regular ol’ pen and paper, your to do list is necessary. Making this list (and making plans in general) frees up mental space to focus on whatever you’re doing right now. We like to make two lists — a time structured list that includes a small, easily completed task at the top (like that playlist!) followed by 1-3 Most Important Tasks, and a list of random thoughts. When you’re working on something and think of a random task that needs to be completed, add it to the second list and move on. The amount of mental space you’ll devote to remembering that task will just drag you down. If you feel your mind start to drift, take a look at your list and what’s ahead in your schedule.
5. Tackle at least one of your Most Important Tasks. Take advantage of your momentum by completing one big task that requires action. This will set the tone for the rest of your day, and allow you to feel ahead of the curve when you move onto the next step.
6. Open your inbox. Ahh, the dreaded email beast. You’ve been letting it lie dormant for 3 days (or more!) — and your cursory overview in step one did nothing to address your concerns. Scan through and immediately delete all spam and organize all “50% off if you act now!” messages. Some can be deleted, some you’ll want to look at later, and some your wallet says “no!” but your mind says “yes!” Don’t you feel better? Next, prioritize your remaining emails. Respond to anything that you have an immediate response to, and organize the rest into your to do list. Rather than responding to emails as they come in, we like to set aside 15 minutes every two hours or so to formulate responses. Don’t have as many emails to go through? Tie this in with the next step.
7. Schedule your breaks. You may want to plow through everything, but this is just going to mean that you’ll be overworked and tired the next day. Try and schedule a 5-10 minute break every hour— this could include some stretching, a simple yoga routine, getting the mail or refilling your water bottle. By scheduling these breaks in, you’ll have natural stopping points in your work that will keep your mind focused, help prevent eye strain and overall keep your body healthy. And keep the long weekend water cooler talk for the lunch break.
8. Think positive, but be realistic. You can do anything you set your mind to — but you’ve also been gone for a few days. Don’t expect to get caught up (or even ahead) in a single day. By prioritizing items on your to do list, you hopefully won’t feel the urge to work after hours and suffer from burn out.
9. Finish the day with a closing routine. Maybe you always end the day by backing up your files, checking your email one last time, straightening up your desk and writing out your to do list for the morning. Or maybe you always end the day by forwarding that new Youtube video, updating your Facebook status with your plans for the evening and deciding where you’re getting takeout from. We’re not judging. But this closing routine sends a signal of “I’m done today,” and allows you to enjoy your evening. Similarly, try to adopt an opening routine. Maybe it includes organizing your to do list, prioritizing your emails and reading the latest blog posts before hoping in to your work. This gets you in the mood to be productive and ready to take on the world.
What are your top tips for working smarter? Let us know in the comments!