You’ve just returned from a long weekend or holiday and are now facing going back to work. The fun of the time off is over and it’s time to refocus on your job. While you did all that work to unwind and remove yourself from it, now’s the time to find some motivation to work after enjoying time off. It’s not easy for anyone, so don’t give yourself a hard time if you aren’t able to flip like a light switch and immediately get back into gear. Find your motivation to work with these easy steps:
Why It’s Hard to Find Motivation to Work After Taking Time Off
One common reason that it’s hard to find the motivation to work after taking time off is that maybe your work doesn’t seem that important now. When you’re in the flow of working, one thing after another gets done and your workday flies by. After taking time off, the pace slows and you realign your priorities. Chances are that you spent some time with friends or family, or just enjoyed yourself. This is what time off is for, of course.
This also means that after returning to work, you may need to see how the collection of daily tasks creates an overall effect that is worth your daily effort. What big overall goals have you accomplished? In what ways have you changed other people’s lives? Returning to that sense of mission will help you ease back into doing what you came to work to do. Stand back and see the big picture reason why you deal with these everyday things on a regular basis and remember why you come to work every day.
First, Leave Your Away Message On While You Go Through Your Email
Whether you took one day or a whole month, the email inbox piles up. Before you let everyone know that you’re back (and available for them to interrupt you), leave the away message on and go through the pile of emails. Seeing what needs your attention now and what can wait will make better use of your time than reading and responding in chronological order.
Make a To-Do List
Once you’ve caught up on your email, now it’s time to prioritize. List all the things that need to be done. Write them down in whatever order you think of them. Put everything you can think of that needs to be on a to-do list. Not done today, you understand, but in the short term future. Writing it down will help you stop thinking about it without worrying that you’re going to forget. It’s usually the side projects that derail the best of intentions, so write them down and keep going. No, they’re not necessarily in the order needed, but the idea is to get the thought out of your head and onto the list.
Finding motivation after time off isn’t difficult if you have a deadline staring you in the face. Rewrite your list based on matters of importance. This can be based on a deadline or other criteria.
This step can be difficult when nothing seems that important, but it’s essential. Breaking the big project into smaller steps will help you see how you can easily get from one step to another. This leads us to the next step.
Block any Distractions Possible
In a study from the University of California Irvine, researchers shadowed workers on the job and noticed that it takes 23 minutes to refocus on your task after you’ve been interrupted. It can take nearly half an hour to refocus on what you were doing after being distracted.
Here’s what Gloria Mark, the Professor in the Department of Informatics, told Fast Company:
“You have to completely shift your thinking, it takes you a while to get into it and it takes you a while to get back and remember where you were…We found about 82 percent of all interrupted work is resumed on the same day. But here’s the bad news — it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to the task.”
How many times are you interrupted in one day? Whether it’s a phone call, mail delivery, or just someone contacting you, it takes up your time. And this isn’t even including how long it takes for you to deal with that interruption itself. It takes another 23 minutes after you’ve completed the interruption for you to refocus. So first there is the time taken to deal with the distraction and then an extra 23 minutes afterward just to refocus. Yes, it is healthy to take breaks, but you want to stay focused and in the flow when you are working.
How you can prevent interruptions depends on what kind of interruptions you’re fighting against. If it’s coworkers asking about your vacation, you may need to ask them to contact you later. If you find yourself scrolling the internet, we recommend using apps to avoid distraction. For a Mac: selfcontrolapp and for Windows users on Chrome, there are the extensions of the app Stay Focused or Cold Turkey. Overall, preventing interruptions will probably require communicating with other people around you, and knowing your own weaknesses.
Get an Easy Win
Studies have shown that the sheer volume of a big project can make it hard for you to picture how you’ll get it done. This can create a feeling of being overwhelmed, which is paralyzing. Studies have shown that your motivation to complete a task is increased by two things. First, the importance of the work you’re doing, and second, the likelihood that you’ll be able to complete it. In basic English, if you don’t think you’ll be able to finish a task, you’re probably not going to be able to muster enough energy to work on it.
So break the giant project into smaller pieces, with easier goals that lead to the big win. Doing this will help you find motivation after time off because it will give you a sense of accomplishment that you need to keep going. Each one of these that you accomplish will help you build momentum to the next one, and keep you from focusing too much on the big picture. It took more than a day to build Rome.
Have you used the Podomoro Technique of working for 25 minutes before taking a break? Much like that, scheduling a break gives you something to look forward to and the motivation to keep going. It’s much easier to deal with the work if you think “25 minutes until I can take a ten-minute break”. That’s much more encouraging than “5 hours until I’m out of here”. Those five hours sound like a long stretch that will drag on. In contrast, twenty-five minutes is short enough to be the length of a standard sitcom T.V. show.
Set your expectations to be achievable and your energy will match them. If you’re looking at the entire project as a whole, then of course it can be overwhelming. Just doing one thing at a time will help you focus and adjust to being back – and remember why you do this job in the first place. Let’s get organized, prioritize, block your distractions, get an easy win, and don’t forget to schedule breaks! Let’s find that motivation to work!
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