As summer is drawing to a close, kids are going back to school, and for a lot of us, it’s time to get back into our normal routines. While summer vacations (and staycations) allow you to recharge and unwind, getting back into a consistent routine can be even harder. Workloads can easily seem overwhelming after a few months of summer relaxation. Family schedules also ramp up.
Allow yourself to evaluate your situation. Ask yourself honestly: Are you dreading getting back to a routine? Do you need to try something new? Are you merely surviving the day rather than giving it your all?
Establish Good Habits
If you find yourself struggling to get back into your work routine maybe it is a sign that you need to make some changes. The mind and body work better when performing in a consistent routine. Establishing good habits outside of work can help boost productivity at work. In The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg states that inside the habit loop, resides a routine. It’s the key that makes the habit live or die; and like its own locksmith, it is basically the only part of the habit loop that can be changed. “Routines are the organizational analogue of habits.”
Some of the routines that help me reset my mind include waking up earlier which in turn allows me to start my day earlier. Since I now have more to do in the mornings like making sure kids are awake and getting ready, driving them to school, and reviewing my schedule and plans for the day, it’s important to give myself more time to get them done before starting work. The key for me is not to make an abrupt change like trying to wake up an hour earlier the next day but get there gradually by shooting for 10-15 minutes earlier over a period of time.
Another morning routine that I get more consistent at this time of year is getting my body moving. In a study published by the International Journal of Workplace Health Management, those involved saw a 72% improvement in time management and workload completed when they exercised that day. I set personal goals for the number of times per week and the length of time to exercise each day that are appropriate and sustainable for me. I also accept that I may not meet the goals I set on a given day or week but focus on the progress I did achieve.
“I seriously doubt that I would have been as successful in my career (and happy in my personal life) if I hadn’t always placed importance on my health and fitness” says entrepreneur Richard Branson who controls over 400 successful businesses.
Establishing consistent routines now will make it easier to form good habits that can be carried out through the rest of the year, and longer.
Create a New Plan
With many people returning to the workplace, what worked for you, your family, or your organization a few months ago might not work moving forward. For example, if you had an early start and end to your day while working from home, you may not be able to keep the same hours in the office based on your team’s schedules. Take this time of transitioning to start fresh. Reevaluate your goals and create for yourself a new strategy to achieve them. Figuring out how to restructure your day after returning from some down time might be challenging. Prioritize the tasks you want to get done. I aim to prioritize 1-3 small tasks each day by writing them down at the end of the previous day. I also live by my calendar to stay organized. When I make a commitment or agree to a meeting, I add it to my calendar immediately. I look at my calendars on Sundays to see what I have scheduled for the week, and again at the end of each day for the next day. Utilize whatever method works for you whether that’s Outlook calendars, Excel sheets, or paper planners. Creating a new plan helps motivate you to make changes and keeps you consistent.
Delegate if Possible
If you’re anything like me, accepting that you can’t accomplish everything on your own is hard. The downside to working like this is that I’m overwhelmed and usually don’t accomplish the things I set out to do. Delegating tasks to others can be anxiety-inducing, but the key is to make sure you have the right person for the task and to be clear about your expectations. Consistent follow up is also important to things are getting done when you need them to be, and the results meet your expectations. Our family recently learned about some food allergies our children have, which require them to remove foods from their diets that we had been eating. We now must be more proactive in preparing food at home on the weekends for the school week. We solicit their help to prepare their foods over the weekend so we can get other needed tasks done. This greatly reduces our concern, and we know they will have suitable meals for the week.
At work, I recently hired an intern (meet Katerina here). While this was a big leap for me mentally, I am already seeing the benefits in just a few short weeks. We are still learning the best way to delegate tasks and share information, but having someone committed to writing content, email marketing, research, and other tasks as needed allows me to focus on higher-level tasks and client delivery. It can be difficult to realize that you can’t do everything by yourself, task delegation allows you to focus on more critical responsibilities while giving team members the chance to improve their skills.
Schedule Time for Deep Work
How frequently do you find yourself checking your email, social media, or news reports while completing another task? These brief distractions happen constantly and can be even more frequent when returning from something like a summer vacation. But when work and life pick up during this time, we must find ways to be more productive. One way to do this is by scheduling time for deep work1. Deep work is a state of peak concentration that lets you learn hard things and create quality work quickly. What this means is allowing yourself a specific amount of time to focus solely on a task or project in a completely distraction-free space. The benefit of this is that eliminating outside distractions improves concentration and elevates your cognitive abilities. Based on the nature of my work, my day is usually booked with client meetings and teaching sessions. It’s unrealistic for me to block off several hours of time at once, so I aim for shorter stretches like 30-60 minutes at a time. I close out email and any programs or browser tabs I don’t need, which helps me keep my focus.
After summer vacation schedules, it can be difficult to get back into “work mode”. Even if you absolutely love what you do, getting back into our work routines can feel like a chore. You might need a few days, or even weeks, to get your mind back into the game, but that’s okay. Make a strategy and define goals that are reasonable and achievable for you. And most important, take action even if in small ways!
“Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.” – Paul J. Meyer
- The term was coined by Cal Newport, a computer science professor at Georgetown University and author of “Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World.”