After a long hectic year, most of us use the holiday season taking a well deserved break: days of sleep-ins, merrily drinking and eating our way through the day with our only interruption being a swim or siesta.
With the holiday season now behind us, some of us return feel rejuvenated and raring to go. But for others, that first week back can feel awful.
Whether you need a change of scene because the one you’re in no longer makes you happy, or you just need to get your butt back into gear, try these tips to help put your mind back on track:
1) A Clean Slate
A big desk clean up can ease you back into work mode, helping a mental declutter by letting go of what has already happened so you’re prepared for what’s ahead.
Physically clean your desk as dust and grime can accumulate in areas that you wouldn’t have thought (especially your phone, key board and even in your files - leaving it can make you sick). Your slate literally IS clean and you’ll feel more motivated to get into it.
Clearing out your in-tray and the paperwork you’ve accumulated. is a helpful way to start your new to-do list because you can see what your current priorities should be. It's also an opportunity to file what has already passed, and toss the paraphernalia you no longer need but held onto.
Desktop: A visually jarring desktop can mess with you mentally when you’re stressed and can make you feel disorganised. Get rid of the icons that you no longer need.
Then tackle your emails ... but don’t get drag down reading and replying to everything while you’re doing it. Just scan and keep the things you need to action, file the ones you need for reference, and ditch the ones you don’t need.
2) Turn big tasks into smaller ones
When you feel overwhelmed by a massive project or task to deal with, set a small goal first.
Then the next.
Then the next.
Author of New York Times bestseller The 4 Hour Work Week, Tim Ferris, spoke about a daily writing quota of just two pages. His last book was over 672 pages. Once you start, those two pages become four, then maybe 20. Before you know it, you’ll have thousands of words.
Creating small, do-able goals will help you feel like you’re making progress on a daily basis, rather than going days feeling like you’re getting nowhere. Not only can it feel more rewarding, you’ll feel more motivated as you tick things off your list.
3) Change your surroundings and routine
It’s easy to fall into the same routine and patterns and sometimes a small shift can help inspire and motivate you, like:
Taking a different route to work.
Buying your coffee from somewhere different.
Moving desks in the office if you’re able to easily. If you can’t, try strategically placing pot plant somewhere to change things up or rearrange your desk set up.
Working different hours or work from home once a week if you can. Come in a bit earlier so you can leave earlier, or the other way around if you function better later in the day.
Change when you choose to go to the gym: if you’re an after work person, try first thing in the morning. Start squeezing into lunch times you get a mental break during the day, or start something completely new (like yoga instead of spin).
Small shifts, different surroundings and the opportunity to interact with different people can spark creativity and boost your motivation.
4) Take regular breaks
As a perfectionist obsessed with achievement, it was difficult to accept I couldn’t operate at 100% all the time. No matter how motivated and eager you are, we’re all human and we should give ourselves the same compassion we show others.
If your day includes a high level of interaction that leaves you mentally depleted, try spacing out your meetings and calls so you get breathing time to replenish in between.
This may mean sitting quietly at your desk for 5 minutes, going to the bathroom, or ducking out for a coffee. Those small breaks may just be the thing you need to recharge.
If you have a complex task, an impending deadline or need complete focus on something, block out time in your diary to prevent others from scheduling ad-hoc meetings.
We spend our whole lives giving, so allow yourself to replenish. We can only give our best when our own cup is full.
5) Know when you need help
Its normal feel flat when you return to work, but you shouldn’t feel gut wrenching dread or thought consuming anxiety when it’s time to face work. If the clouds don’t seem to be lifting, it may be time to look at the underlying issues, like whether it’s time for a change of scene or a new job.
There could be other sources of chronic procrastination, such as a perfectionist streak holding you back from starting or completing work because of crippling fear that you work will never been good enough. Boredom and lack of stimulation may mean you spend hours on Facebook and Instagram instead of buckling down and getting work done.
Most work places have third party counselling services available to their employees that you can use anonymously. Take advantage of them.
Even if you need to pay for help, what price place on your mental health?
No one is going to love every single part of their jobs, but the overall working experience should be positive.
If something is causing you constant stress because you can’t get motivated, it will start causing ongoing stress and leech into your personal life, affecting your mental and physical health, and perhaps even your personal relationships.
As Mark Nepo puts it, ‘Life is a continuous cycle of learning, mastery and abandonment’. As you change and evolve as a person, ways that previously worked well for may need tweaking.
We’ll all make mistakes along the way - have the bravery to try something new, take what works for you, change what doesn’t, and let go of things that no longer serve you well.