I'm back home from vacation and excited to jump back into work. I have a long to-do list, and some projects I want to get started on right away. I’m energized, but I can feel the beginning of that feeling of overwhelm.
You might be familiar with this. The feeling that you're so busy that you don't know where to start. If you’re like me, you procrastinate, do things that aren't necessary, waste time. At the end of the day you feel even more discouraged. You know you did something, but nothing is checked off your list.
I used to feel really overwhelmed when I had lots to do, and I especially felt that way when starting a project. Then I learned a couple of tricks.
1. Look at the to-do list and choose your priorities for today only. These are the things that *must* be done today. You can do these first or you can do them later, but you know that they have to get done today. Pro tip: Keep this list short. You can always add more if you finish everything.
2. Choose one or two of your larger projects. List 3 steps that you can do for these today. Make the steps reasonable. They could be as small as emailing someone to set up a meeting, but they must be steps that will move that project forward. Pro tip: Make sure the steps you list are actually steps. “Create a marketing plan” is not a step! But there might be steps within that that as, “brainstorm key words for marketing this project”.
3. If this gets you feeling really inspired, make a list of everything that needs to be done for that project, in order of when it needs to be done. Include everything and make the steps bite-size. Pro tip: Don’t get so excited that you start doing the project if you still have things that need to get done today. However, make sure you record any brilliant ideas you have while you’re planning so you can easily step back in later.
Now you have a to-do list for today, and you can start accomplishing things right away. I personally enjoy writing the list by hand and then stroking things off fully - a check mark isn't enough for me.
Sometimes after vacation I find that I need to do this process for two or three days before I get all the immediate things done and finally see a clear way forward. Just because you’re working on immediate things doesn’t mean you’re not accomplishing something.
I also find that I need to be more strict with myself in terms of time right after holidays. For example, I’ll tell myself I can’t make a second coffee until 10 am, or until I finish three items. Giving yourself structure when you’re feeling overwhelmed can make you feel like you’re in control, and help you accomplish your tasks.
I’d love to hear your tips and ideas for getting back into work after holidays. Leave them in the comments or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.