Category Archives: Time management

Post Vacation Blues Are Real: Here’s what to do

 

worker on vacation

Vacation is crucial to work life balance. Yet, every time my family and I board a plane to return from vacation, I get a knot in my stomach. I love the restorative part of vacation, waking up to know I have no responsibilities and my only task is to figure out what enjoyable activity I will do each day. But vacation usually goes fast and then it’s time to return to reality.

I am fortunate to return to a career I enjoy. Many people hate their jobs, their bosses, their overall predicaments. I don’t. Yet, I dread going from the high of a vacation to the reality of a routine. I dread the post vacation blues.

So lately, I’ve been reading up on how to avoid post vacation blues, or even just end-of-summer blues. I have figured out a few things to do different this summer. Here is my plan and suggestions:

1. Know the benefit of a break. Whether you are job hunting, thinking of leaving your job or overwhelmed by your job, you need a break. Tell yourself it’s okay to take a vacation and it’s okay not to think about real life responsibilities for a short period of time.  Repeat after me: It’s okay to chill out!

2. Make a game plan for the return. Spend some time coming up with a list of things that you can do after you return that will challenge you intellectually or  physically. Those people who are constantly challenging themselves rarely appear to be depressed or negative, according to Andrew Griffiths and his blog on Inc.  I signed up for an online writing webinar a few days after my return from vacation this year. It gives me a learning opportunity to look forward to that I can fit into my workday.

3. Do more of the things you enjoy. If it’s spending time with your family you enjoy, figure out how to do more of it. If it’s exercising you enjoy, get up early and go bike riding twice a week. If you enjoy working, that’s a good thing, too. What aspects of your job do you like most and how can you do more of those things? Griffiths say some people have a hobby they enjoy like fishing or gardening but the last time they did it was 10 years ago.  The weeks following your vacation are the time to get back into something you enjoy doing. For me, I love reading. I just created a library of books on my iPad waiting to be read on a lounge chair on the beach over the upcoming weekends.

4. Ask someone “how can I help”? Commit to helping someone else either in your workplace, your business network,  your community, your children’s school. If you want to feel uplifted, there is no better way.

5. Get in the right frame of mind.  Sometimes we take ourselves far too seriously and focus on the piece of our lives that we find dull or difficult or exhausting.When you come back from vacation rested and happy, you can use that as motivation to re-examine your work life balance and your outlook. What are the things that made you happy on vacation — sleeping in, touring museums, taking hikes, eating at new restaurants? All those things can be done wherever you live. You just have to make the effort to do them.

6. Change up your routine.  During your first week back from vacation, take a new route to work, sit in a different chair at the dinner table or eat lunch with a different crowd. Small changes often are enough to renew our zest for life.

Vacations are fun because they offer a break from the tedium and familiarity of life, but if you’re miserable being at work or at home, you may want to consider making big changes to feel happier — or just start planning your next vacation!

Time Management tips for better work life balance

I started my day by looking at my calendar, rather than my Inbox. It definitely helps to know what you should be spending your time doing.  I shared more tips in my Miami Herald Balancing Act column today. After reading it, let me know if you have any time mangement tips that have helped you better manage your work day.

Too_busyIf I asked a random group of American workers how they felt coming out of 2009, I’m pretty sure what they would say — exhausted. So how do we shake that feeling in 2010?

We manage our time better.

It doesn’t matter how smart you are or whether you have an iPhone in a multitasking world. If you can’t organize your day to handle information and get things done, you will burn yourself out trying to make sure nothing falls through the cracks.

Changing habits isn’t easy. It will require you to spend energy upfront and avoid the biggest impediment to staying on top of work and life priorities: distractions.

I went to the experts to come up with some behavioral change techniques. Here are eight tips to make you better at managing your work day:

 Schedule a 2 p.m. check-in. Most people wait until the end of the day to tally what they’ve checked off their to-do list. A mid-afternoon review allows you to know what needs to get done before 5 p.m. and you need to extend your workday. It also allows you to manage the expectations of others. If you make a goal of leaving work on time at least two days a week, a 2 p.m. check in should help you make this a reality. You may want to set a reminder alarm.

 Organize your to-do list every day. Some people prefer to make a task list before bedtime at night; some prefer to do it early each morning. The list should include manageable items that can be completed, such as “prepare exhibits for monthly report,” rather than just “work on report.”

Don’t set yourself up for failure with an unrealistically long list. You may need to rewrite a task on the next day’s list until it gets done.

 Make a not-to-do list. “Every individual gets into a habit that at the time it was created made sense but since has outlived its usefulness,” says Noah Blumenthal author of Be The Hero: Three Powerful Ways to Overcome Challenges in Work and Life. For some, that habit may be reading e-mail exchanges you no longer need to be part of, checking Facebook at the start of every morning, listening to a co-worker whine or stopping for a cup of coffee.

Blumenthal says his “not to do list” eliminates time spent reading articles on ESPN.com. “I can check scores, but I don’t need to read the articles.”

 Live in your calendar. People spend their entire days tethered to their in-boxes and lose sight of what they are supposed to be doing, says Dan Markovitz, president of the productivity consulting firm TimeBack Management.

“If you keep your calendar front and center, you will know what you should be doing,” he says. Markovitz recommends changing the setting of your software program so the calendar opens first rather than your e-mail in-box.

“The first thing you need to see is what you are supposed to do today instead of everything from everyone who needs a piece of you.” When your calendar is visible, it gives you the opportunity to make smart decisions.

 Organize your day. When you block off time on your calendar for major events, don’t jam your day full of activities. Lynn Taylor, workplace expert and author of Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant, says many people underestimate the time it takes to get tasks done and the number of unexpected events each day.

If a problem arises that doesn’t need to be handled by that evening, she recommends suggesting to your boss or client that you take it up the next day when everyone is fresh. “Use your interpersonal skills to help them see the benefit.”

 Check e-mail on a schedule. Most workers waste time answering every e-mail or text message as it arrives. Even worse, they respond without fully thinking through their response. Create a schedule and fall into a routine for checking your in-box. “Spending your day responding to e-mail is not a substitute for sitting and working. E-mail is not most people’s job,” says Markovitz.

To keep up with e-mail, organize it in file folders. If the message needs more thought, move it to your to-do list. If you want to acknowledge receipt, respond with “got it.” If it’s for reference, print it out. If it’s a meeting, move it to your calendar.

 Know your purpose. Before you make a phone call or go into a meeting, know what you want to accomplish. “A lot of people walk out of meetings feeling exhausted because the meeting didn’t start with a clear plan for what had to be achieved,” says Stuart R. Levine, business consultant and author of Cut to the Chase.

He also recommends identifying the most important thing you want to get done each day, and doing it first. Levine comes to his office early and writes three priorities on a Post-It note. He tackles them before reading e-mail, answering calls or welcoming visitors into his office.

 Use time management tools. Software such as Outlook lets you schedule events easily and can be set to remind you of appointments in advance. Business coach Pat Morgan puts everything in her Outlook — whether it’s writing a thank you note, attending a meeting or making a phone call. If she can’t get to the task, she will reschedule it on her Outlook calendar.

“I take care of things because I don’t want to see a reminder pop up again.”