Post-holiday January can be energizing, filled with a new sense of possibility. But commonly the early weeks of January can be filled with confusion as you reconnect with your usual routine and the professional demands that likely diminish a bit in late December.
Regardless of the value of stepping away from work periodically, which I advocate and practice, time away also erodes all the top-of-mind details and breaks the momentum that a regular routine creates.
Even though the post-vacation mental fog around work is expected, without some method for bringing clarity soon this reasonable fog can quickly cloud out your motivation and morph into a full-blown case of back-to-work resistance.
If you’ve experienced that fuzzy mind, confusion, frustration, and even resistance after a holiday or vacation break or even after temporarily putting aside a project, I have just the tool for you—Welcome Back Memo!
WELCOME BACK MEMO
When you’re confused, not up to speed with the day-to-day workflow, or are experiencing back-to-work resistance, you need a clear set of directions. You need clarity, maybe even step-by-step guidance with minimal decision making. But let’s face it. No one’s going to hand you those longed for, clear directions when you return from vacation. So, create them yourself in the form of a Welcome Back Memo addressed to YOU. Make drafting this memo a vacation prep essential!
Fundamentally, this memo is to reacquaint you with your priorities, lessen the back-to-work resistance, and save you hours, days, weeks, maybe even months of frustration from lost work time that can result from the post-vacation mental fog. If this seems ridiculous because you never deal with mental fog, priority confusion, or back-to-work resistance, ignore this and please share your secret!
Intended to counteract any trash talk from your Perpetual Roommate. [Use these or craft your own.]
- Your time away from work was valuable! A break from work can be a productivity booster. Time away can bring physical, mental, and spiritual renewal. New ideas often blossom in new surroundings when nurtured by different experiences. You may very likely return with fresh insights and a burst of motivation—give yourself a chance. Don’t be surprised or dismayed by that mental fog of confusion that may have greeted you today.
- Be kind to yourself today.
- Look for some quick wins today.
- Set reasonable expectations today.
- Don’t spend all day catching up or expect to be completely caught-up at the end of today.
- Today’s highest priority is to make tomorrow a “normal” workday, meaning I know what needs to be done and I have the energy and motivation to do it. [Adjust the time expectation to fit the length of your time away. Roughly one day per week gone. A long weekend may only require a few hours for the ramp-up.]
2. STATUS SUMMARY:
Draft a short paragraph of your top-of-mind ideas and status of your active projects as of the day you leave. If you’re actively engaged in a creative/writing/complex project, make very clear notes on the very next thing you will start with on your first day back. The more specific and tangible your notes the easier it will be to overcome any resistance. Ideas that were once very clear will get fuzzy with a break so plan for that reality.
3. PRIORITY LISTS:
Make three very short lists.
- Priorities on the Horizon! (Want’s coming up in the next month or two that you want to be reminded of?)
- Most Important Things to Do This Week! (No more than 3 things)
- Most Important Things to Do Today! (1st day back—no more than 3)
4. EXTRA ACCOUNTABILITY:
If you struggle to meet your own expectations but dependably honor your commitments to others, then commit to completing something for someone that first week back. As a motivation boost, you might even leave something unfinished that is due soon after you return. Yes, this is a strategy for intentional procrastination. Be reasonable and make it doable! Warning: This method won’t be helpful if others’ deadlines don’t motivate you.
Drafting this memo as part of your holiday/vacation prep will be quick and easy and pay dividends that far exceed the time invested in creating it. Draft it. Put it precisely where you want to see it when you sit down to work that first day back from any extended break (even a long weekend) intended for your renewal.
When you give this strategy a try and experience the value, the Welcome Back Memo might become your most important prep step when you pause for holidays, vacation, and even temporarily let a project sit and marinate.