If you had Martin Luther King Jr. Day off this past Monday, you might be experiencing that post-long weekend slump many of us feel after returning to the office from a holiday. Your days are jumbled: Tuesday feels like Monday, and now that important deadline is tomorrow instead of the day after. Friday seems to have happened longer ago than it usually does, so what were you working on again?
You can enjoy an extra day off without feeling overwhelmed when you go back to work—losing a work day does not have to mean losing momentum with your productivity. If you feel like you scramble after long weekends, here are five tips for staying on track.
Plan your short week’s schedule far in advance.
For the most part, we have the benefit of knowing ahead of time when we’re getting a long weekend. This makes it easy to schedule your time around a shorter work week. If you know you’re losing a day in the coming weeks, plan accordingly. Whenever possible, avoid scheduling meetings for the day you return. Take your first day to catch up on emails and address important tasks before diving into meetings that demand time and attention.
Providing there are no urgent deadlines, don’t promise to complete a deliverable by the first day back. Most people will be catching up that day, and you don’t want to feel like you’re in a mad dash to finish something as quickly as possible when it could benefit from you spending a little extra time to make sure it’s done right. Managing your time, especially when you have less of it, is essential for staying on track. Sure, MLK Day might be behind us, but President's Day is next month!
Leave yourself a detailed to-do list before you leave for the long weekend.
To-do lists make everything better. When you’re facing a week where it’s even more important to stay organized, a to-do list can mean the difference between a stress-free morning and staring at your computer screen for an hour while you try to remember what it is you’re supposed to be doing.
On the last day before the long weekend, leave yourself a detailed list of everything you have to do next week. Prioritize the list by level of urgency or due date, and if possible, break the list down by what you hope to accomplish on which day.
It might also be helpful to leave yourself with a summary of the current state of your workload. What were you able to finish by the time you left for the long weekend? What items are outstanding? What do you need to follow up on? You can definitely create this to-do list the day you return, but doing so ahead of time helps you hit the ground running.
Don’t be afraid to ease into your work week.
It’s not uncommon to feel a sense of panic when you have a short week: everything seems urgent, and you may be overwhelmed by the need to accomplish as much as you would any other week. But the truth is that, even with the most pressing of deadlines, there’s probably going to be something you don’t have to stress about right away. It’s hard to stay productive when you enter the week flustered.
Take some time on that first day back to ease yourself into the week. Instead of rushing out the door, have a leisurely morning: enjoy your breakfast, take a short walk, or read a little bit. The temptation to hit “snooze” four times on your first day back is real, but snoozing doesn’t actually leave you feeling rested, and rushing to work already sets you up for stress.
Give yourself ample time to enjoy your morning and get to work without fuss. You can even take that first half hour or so at work to check your emails or read a relevant news article. While you want to hit the ground running, doing so with a calm and clear mind is far better for your productivity.
Find little ways to make up for lost time.
It’s going to be difficult to make up for a full day lost—and you shouldn’t have to if it means overworking yourself. While you can’t turn back time, there are little ways you can make up for the time you lost on your day off. Coming into work a half hour early and leaving a half hour later can help add some time to your day. You can even take a shorter lunch break if necessary.
If you can move meetings that aren’t absolutely essential to next week, do so, and for the meetings you must have this week, use a detailed agenda to make sure the meeting runs smoothly and efficiently. The idea is not to overwork yourself; rather, it’s to allow you a little bit of breathing room to make the most of your time without feeling the crunch.
Be realistic about what you can accomplish this week.
There’s just no way to fit an entire week’s worth of work into a shorter week without burning the candle at both ends. Something is bound to be pushed off until the following week, so the best way to handle this is to get in front of it. Setting realistic goals is essential to staying productive without feeling overwhelmed.
Follow your to-do list to the letter, paying careful attention to high-priority items so you can determine exactly what needs to be done this week. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it, and always keep the lines of communication open. Avoid promising more than you can deliver, and let your colleagues know what you’re working on. Clearly communicating your bandwidth and availability will help manage expectations and can avoid conflicting demands on your time.
The good news is that, unlike when you come back from PTO, your coworkers are in the exact same position. Everybody is catching up, and they’re likely to understand your needs and constraints.
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