Back to work: 5 ways over 5 days to quell overwhelm.

Like the sound of 5 ways over 5 days that can quell the back to work overwhelm? 

One of the topics I’ve been asked most about since my shift to freelance coaching is how to manage overwhelm. I’ve written about this here, but in this post I want to tackle the specific overwhelm that a first week back at work after a break can bring. 

Back to work: with dread or relief?

The first Monday in January is always a strange one. Many of us are ‘back to work’ after a fairly long break. A period in which we have abandoned our routines. We might be feeling a bit lost and out of practice. 

This year also sees the ushering in of a shiny new decade coming after the most politically depressing 2019. We are also aghast as the planet burns in bush fires across Australia. 

You might be facing inbox doom. You might be hitting a wall of meetings. You may be back to teaching and exams. 

It is indeed a tricky day to keep motivated and to keep the panic at bay.

However, how about doing it and feeling a little better? 

Being kinder to yourself? Ditching that meaningless ‘guilt’ and panic?

Proactive, not reactive: start as you mean to go on

I’m advocating an end to the ‘catching up’ mentality.  All this phrase does is reinforce the feeling that we are permanently on the backfoot – let that go! 

Ditto ‘guilt’ over what you didn’t do on holiday – you were on holiday, remember?! You are not meant to be working while you are on holiday. Repeat that after me.

You are back to it now. Start today. 

Below I’ve outlined 5 short exercises to do across the 5 days of this first week back. 

Take at least 10 minutes to yourself before the day starts if you can. If you are straight into meetings after the school run – make sure you TAKE a break. 

Be proactive, not reactive. 

That 10 minutes will make a huge difference to you, but it is not likely to impact on anyone else. Do it. 

5 ways for 5 days: quell that back to work overwhelm

Day 1: Take stock

Don’t rush in and panic fire off emails. Take it a little more slowly.  First up – check back on where were you before the break. Do you have anything you need to continue on with? Is there anything you can ditch/stop? Take one task. 

Also a note on that inbox – if there is spam; delete. If there are tasks that can no longer be actioned; delete. If you are in an endless chain ‘for your info’ message; Read, delete, move on. 

Day 2: Planning the focus of the week

You desk might be clean(er), you’ve chatted to the colleagues (or social media if you are a lone worker – hi!). You are back in the saddle. Now, prioritise what you are going to do over this week. Much like the old green cross code; ‘Stop, Look, Listen’. Take 10 minutes before you fire up the computer and assess what you need to do. Look back at your plans and lists. Listen to yourself. 

Day 3: Eat some frogs

If you have not already tackled a task that needs doing, but is not one you are feeling – prioritise that. Do it quickly.  Not so bad. You might even be able to stomach another one?

Day 4: Over the half-way point – reflect. 

It’s important to keep checking in with yourself. Each night I write my ‘done list’ because it shows me where my time is really going. It allows me to see where I’ve procrastinated, where something urgent and unexpected has landed, or where I’ve gone down a rabbit hole. 

Once you have an idea of what you are doing, assess what is realistic for today and tomorrow. 

Day 5: Made it! 

The end of that first week back. 

Celebrate what you have done. It’s likely been ‘less’ than you usually do, but you have done the work of getting back into a role. Back into a routine. Back on the commute, the school run. You might be doing new tasks, working with new clients. Starting new projects. 

Have a day off over the weekend if you can. 

Keep going at your pace

If you are still struggling with planning proactively and prioritisation – drop me an email to discuss a coaching call or package. The first Skype consultation (15 minutes) is a freebie to see if we can work together to get you back to you! You can read my thoughts on what you should think about before coaching here and my coaching manifesto here. 

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