Getting back into productive work-mode is always a challenge in January, the good news is the first day or two are usually the hardest and for most of us that's now behind us - Phew, we did it! But I think it can be especially challenging if you work from home, by yourself (like me). I started off great yesterday, I was at work bright and early, I'd already done my planning for the year during the holidays so I had a clear list of actions and tasks for the day, and I sat down at my computer at 9am and steadily worked my way through them, making great progress. But, having been a little overambitious (a weakness of mine) in what I wanted to achieve in my first week back I was still plugging away at my computer at 7.30pm last night, by which point I had a pounding headache as my eyes readjusted to computer work after a 2 week break, a very sore back and boy was I grumpy and tired - watch out housemates! So today, having a less intense but still very full day planned, I woke up tired, my motivation waning after yesterday, I didn't fancy another day like that, and I have spent much of my day taking coffee breaks, playing with my cats and finishing off the leftover Xmas chocolates around the house (it's all part of the diet plan - you have to get rid of it before you can start to eat healthily right?!) So having gotten off to a great start, feeling like I had this "January motivation" thing cracked, I'm now realising I still have a way to go!
So, what am I learning from this experience that I'll do differently after my next holiday:
1) Planning in advance really helps. It was a fantastic motivation to come into work yesterday and start with a really clear list of actions to get back into work-mode and build the momentum again, rather than having to try and sit and make myself do that planning yesterday morning, which might have then felt more like a chore. Plus it meant I'd given myself enough time to get everything done before a couple of tight deadlines I've got coming up - if yesterday had been a planning day, I'd now be struggling to get everything done in time.
2) Ease in gently, don't schedule an 11hour day sat in front of a computer for your first day back - it's going to be a shock to the system, ease yourself in gently, be kind. A productive 7hour day would've been a great start and left me feeling motivated to keep up the good work, and left plenty of time in the evening to relax and feel rested coming in this morning.
3) Get excited. Having goals that you're really excited about makes getting started on working towards them so much easier. Whilst it's great to have your daily action plan in place, it can also really help to check back in with the bigger plan every now and again, especially in the first few days and weeks, to remind yourself why you're doing this and what the big goal is and how great that'll feel when you achieve it.
4) Learn what works for you. If you work for yourself, by yourself or from home, often there's very few external motivators to keep pushing you forward, you need to learn what works best for you to keep you motivated and in the best frame of mind. Learning what your weaknesses are and having systems in place to combat them when you spot the warning signs early, can save you wasting huge amounts of time. If you're struggling to concentrate today, maybe you're a bit tired or lacking in motivation or creative energy, try taking your laptop and going to work from a coffee shop instead, sometimes a change of scenery can just make a task feel lighter (less like work), and the fresh air there and back won't do you any harm either. Maybe forget the laptop and just take a walk to grab a quick coffee and take a break from the work environment altogether. If you really are tired, maybe try and find 20minutes for a quick afternoon nap (HUGE advantage of working from home!). Or maybe take some extra time to do whatever it is that gets you into a great frame of mind - for me that's writing in my diary, or a quick meditation. I know some people who really need to feel a distinction between "home" and "work" time and so get dressed for work, leave their house, walk round the block and then come home as if arriving at work. They repeat this at the end of their working day, and this helps them create mental boundaries and start and end each working day clearly. I have other friends who'll happily spend all day in their pyjamas and can comfortably sit on their sofa working on their laptop and be just as productive as if they were in an office. Learn what works best for you. Build up your own arsenal of tactics to continually keep yourself performing at your best, we all have less productive days, but the more you can help yourself the better.
5) Don't be afraid to use them! This one sounds a bit silly, but when I've already got a full day planned, even though I can sometimes see earlier in the day that I'm not performing at my best, instead of acknowledging that early and stopping to employ one of the tactics above to get me back on track, I'm reluctant to get "behind schedule" and I'll try to plough on through. What happens? The situation continues throughout the day and because I'm not performing at my top level I get behind schedule anyway, because I'm procrastinating on little things and allowing distractions to creep in that I wouldn't normally give in to. If I'd given myself permission to take 20minutes out early in the day, when I first noticed how I was feeling, to get myself back into the right head space, alright I might have finished 20mins later than planned but everything would've gotten done for the day and I'd have enjoyed it all much more (and I probably could've made those 20mins up somewhere). Treat yourself kindly, you are your business, keep yourself performing at your best.
6) Learn when to walk away. And then there are those days where you try all the tricks in your arsenal to try and get back on track and nothing quite works. On those days you reach a point where it's better to say, ok, what are my "Absolutely must-do's" today, lets get those finished and then lets finish early for the day. Often just deciding this boosts your motivation to get through those "must-do's" quicker. Take some time out, get some rest and come back tomorrow feeling great, rather than pushing on through with little productivity, feeling frustrated and then coming in tomorrow feeling equally tired because you refused to give yourself a break. Benefit of being the boss = you get to decide when your working day ends, and if occasionally that's 3pm on a Tuesday, the world probably won't grind to a halt!
So, keep an eye on yourself over these next few days, if you don't already know what works for you, start to think of a few techniques you could try on those slower days, and when you notice you're flagging a little bit give one of them a shot. A clear plan, clear motivation and notice when you need a little boost, you'll be easily back in the game in just a few days. January Blues?? Pffft!