Tips for returning to work after a break or a slower summer pace

Before you go back to work

Going back to work on day one without planning will cause you to be reactive and respond to everyone else’s urgent list.  Try the following ideas:

Contact a colleague for an update

Getting a heads-up on developments and issues that have surfaced whilst you´ve been away can help avoid any surprises and will make filtering through the backlog of communication quicker and easier. 

Sort your email

Schedule about an hour before going back to categorise your emails into folders and delete all spam and irrelevant items. This will allow you to get straight onto the real business issues when back at work. Suggested folders could be:

  • ACTIONS (things you have to do)
  • DELEGATE (things you can forward onto a team member / stakeholder to deal with)
  • READING (things that aren’t urgent but you need to read and could be done in your less active attention time, travelling to or from work, whilst waiting for a meeting to start etc).

Word of caution: This is a sorting exercise NOT a responding exercise.  You are not back at work yet.


  • In last month’s newsletter we suggested that you try out some new activities to generate ideas and answers to issues on your mind which could help you be a more effective leader. Reflect on this.  What did you try?  What insights came from it?  How might you apply them to work and /or your personal life?
  • Last September’s newsletter was about treating September as the “New Year”. You are much more likely to reach a professional goal made in September rather than a New Year’s resolution. Think about the new, post-holiday you. What are the key priorities you should have between now and Christmas? What do you need to change that will make a big difference? Where have your energies been wasted on in the past?
  • Write down your goals and how you plan to measure them. Place it somewhere visible as a continual reminder. Use our new Leadership Development Planner to help you and look at our events for inspiration.

Create your action plan / to-do list

  • Make your to-do list for your first week back and beyond based on your Actions and Delegate email folders and your reflections.

When back at work

Limit your access

  • Keep your out of office on for a day or so and spend the extra time on planning and getting things done.
  • Only meet with people you have scheduled in. Try a closed door policy for the first few days in order to have the time to catch up on things.

Add some variety to your work

Treat the return to work as an opportunity to start afresh. If possible take on a new project, or make a resolution to a productivity habit and try to stick to it. This will give you something new to work on and help reduce the monotony of work. 

Add inspiration to your work space

Adding a photo or small memento of your holiday to your workspace will help you hold onto the positive energy that came from taking a break.

Take breaks

  • Try to have at least 20 minutes of sun a day to keep your serotonin levels boosted (chemical which maintains good mood). Take a lunch break outside or exercise pre / post work outside.
  • Regular breaks inside or outside will help boost productivity.

Eat healthy

Returning to work can induce stress and a return to unhealthy snacking at work.

  • Create your own graze box with healthy snacks. This could include:
  • Nuts and sunflower seeds (contain vitamin E and folate to enhance your mood).
  • Dried berries which boost blood flow to the brain for alertness and productivity.
  • Herbal teas. Try energising teas such as Ginseng, Lemon, Peppermint and Ginger.
  • Bring in fresh fruit and veg daily. Fruits and vegetables with orange and yellow pigments have vitamins A and C, as well as folate, which helps enhance mood and brain function.
  • Stay hydrated to keep performance and concentration levels up. Place a jug or water bottle on your desk to sip throughout the day and refill as necessary.

Power through your tasks

Parkinson’s Law states that work expands to fill the time available. Use techniques to work at your optimal speed, such as:

  • The Pomodoro Technique® – working in bursts of 25 minutes with a 5 minute break in between to preserve proactive attention throughout the day.
  • The Power Hour – schedule an hour of your most productive attention time to work on something that you are avoiding or is difficult.
  • Batching – like tasks together to do in one go.
  • Mono-tasking – research has shown that concentrating on one thing at a time is more productive and efficient.

Reward yourself by planning and booking more time off

Throw yourself into a period of hard work is easier if you have something to look forward to.


Recommending reading:

Allcott, G.                    How to be a productivity ninja

Covey, S.                    3 Books in 1: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, First Things First, and the Best of the Most Renowned Leadership Teacher of our Time eBook

Odahowski, M.            The Way of the Hammock: Designing Calm for a Busy Life


Shortcut summaries :

Getting Things Done: A Time Saving Summary of David Allen’s Book on Productivity

20 Foods To Snack On For Enhanced Productivity

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