Taking time off has never been my forte – not because I don’t enjoy it, but because getting back on track afterward is the worst. I suddenly morph into this gigantic ball of anxiety as I sift through the backlog of emails, errands and to-dos I left behind. This is what I like to call a “Braveheart moment” – you can either let your overwhelm get the best of you, or you can use it as fuel to not only get back on track, but simplify your life in the process.
Ready, grasshoppers? Here are 9 easy ways to get back on track and simplify your life:
1. Come Home Early
End your time off early so you can have a couple of days at home to regroup and create a plan of attack. There’s nothing worse than coming home and having to jump right back into your routine. (I tried once, and heard the Jaws theme song the second my alarm went off.)
2. Get Up Earlier
I’ll be the first to admit getting up early is hard. After working late into the night for a number of years, I made the switch after reading Laura Vanderkam’s "What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast." Since doing so, I feel like a completely different person. Getting up earlier gives you the opportunity to ease into your day instead of being thrown into it.
3. Start Your Day Off Right
Now that you’re up earlier, what are the things you always want to do but never have time for? Start your day doing what fulfills you the most. The stronger your attachment to what fulfills you, the harder you’ll fight to simplify your life and reach your goals (you know, instead of just talking about them).
4. Plan Your Week in Advance
The biggest thing that’s helped me combat overwhelm after time off is creating a schedule for the following work week before my time off starts – not only will it clear your mind so you can actually relax, you'll know what's in store for you when you return and subconsciously you'll be armed and ready.
5. Ease Into Your Work
The rule of thumb is always to tackle your most important goals first, but when you’re trying to get back into the swing of things this concept becomes too groan-worthy to handle. This is where cheating is okay: During your first week back, place a few smaller tasks on top of the pile and use them to build momentum. Any tasks that are simple and take 15 minutes or less will build your confidence to tackle the big stuff with ease.
6. Tackle Emails Based on Urgency
Coming home to thousands of unread emails is a tad stressful. Simplify your life by creating a bulletproof email strategy that you’ll use on a daily basis. For example, you might immediately delete (or unsubscribe from) mailing lists and spam, delete e-mails that don’t require a reply, reply to ones that require two sentences or less, and finish off by tackling the detail-oriented requests. By making your email system a daily habit, when you get home from time off you’ll simply pick up where you left off (and at warp speed).
7. Focus on Your Favorite Workout
When you’re jet-lagged and bloaty, it’s important to not only ease into working out again, but focus on a workout you actually enjoy. You can get back to harder, more challenging workouts once you’ve survived the initial reintroduction.
8. Make Up with Your Diet
Remember those eating habits you worked so hard to build before throwing them out the window during your time off? It’s time to drag yourself out of the dog house and tell your body all the ways you’re going to make up for your bingey-binge. Make healthy meals and snacks so you can ease back into the eating habits you ditched during your time off, while simultaneously catching up on your work (and work-outs).
9. Be Patient
It might take a few days or even a few weeks to get back to your normal speed after taking time off, but that's okay. By starting small you’ll not only score major patience points, you’ll simplify your life in more ways than one. After your next vacay, you’ll be like, “What overwhelm?”
How do you plan to simplify your life in 2014?
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Image: Jamie in Bytown