6 steps to a great first day back at work!

It comes to us all eventually - that first day back at work after the Summer vacation.

Photo by Flickr user Anne Robers (pondspider), used under Creative Commons.

Photo by Flickr user Anne Robers (pondspider), used under Creative Commons.

I advocate easing yourself back into your work life. Think of yourself as a delicate gold fish being introduced into a new tank. Don't just go jumping into that cold new tank with those other crazy fish; the shock of leaving the warmth of your plastic bag from the pet shop is going to send you into shock you may not recover.

Slow down buddy, there's a whole year to get worked up and stressed out - enjoy your first day back at your desk. Be gentle. Acclimatise yourself into the working world.

Here're are my six steps to a better first day back at work based on today, my first day back at work after a two week Summer break:

Come in an late, take lunch, leave early

If this isn't your first rodeo, you will have found out before going on your Summer break who was going to be in the office come first working day of the New Year. If you find yourself light on supervision and you're not punching a time-clock, then a late start to your first day is highly recommended.

Lunch is always important so don't go skipping it or eating it at your desk - there's a whole lot of sunshine out there if you live in the Southern Hemisphere and it's just waiting for you to soak it up. Leave the office for an hour for your lunch break and make the most of the weather. 

First days back always feel long - really long - so it's not even going to feel like you're leaving early when it comes to going home because the first day back. Decide on leaving earlier than usual so you still have some pep-in-your-step, some gas-in-your-tank, some enthusiasm for the full day that is ahead of you tomorrow.

Don't open email 

Radical I know, but it came to me in a blinding flash: if there was anything urgent over the Summer break, someone would have phoned you about it. Everything in your inbox can wait until tomorrow.

Change desktop wallpaper

This is very important - well it's not really but it is fun and fun is good. Get that Christmas desktop wall paper off your computer and take time to search for an inspiring replacement.

Pick something that's going to get your juices running as the work starts picking up later in the week. Make a point to change your wallpaper monthly - it's like having a cleanup and feels like a fresh start every time.

To-do list for the week

Work is going to have to happen at some stage, and it's good to get the things you know you need to attend to out of your head and into your to-do-list-of-choice. My to-do list is written on a system card and sits on the documents holder in front of my screen. These are all items that are doable in the first week. They include a couple of mundane administrative tasks, one task that requires thinking, and some email related jobs.

Mark your calendar

By marking out the days you get paid and looking at the holidays (both public and private) you have for the next 12 months really will give you the lay of the landscape for the coming year.

For instance, after marking my wall calendar I can see that I have two deliciously short weeks at the end of January and the beginning of February which makes me feel good about life already. Then I realised I have a work-related retreat and a conference in the weeks following my short weeks so hey presto, I have nearly a month of short weeks right in the middle of Summertime - how great is that?

No sooner am I back than work takes me away again!

As awesome as that is, it also shows me that I need to work around those dates and not over-commit myself as work starts rolling in.


I highly recommended a habit of reading on work time. Not just work *stuff* like reports and whitepapers, but work *related* stuff. 

Starting today, I'm going to read every day this first week because it's predicted to be so quiet where I work. For the rest of the year the plan is to read for 30 minutes at work, three times per week . Not sitting at my desk and reading from the screen either, but focused and with intent in a quiet place. 

I appreciate that your employer and terms of employment might mean you are one of those goldfish who is dumped into the work tank to sink or swim on your first day back from Summer holidays. I can imagine emergency phone operators can't exactly decide to take themselves off to read for 30 minutes during a shift because people might actually die; but I know that there are a lot of us who do have a flexible-enough work life that we have the luxury of this gentle immersion into a new year of work. We're really lucky to be able to feed our minds with literature related to our industry so stave off stagnation. 

Feed your brain with work-related, industry current literature and I reckon it'll pay dividends down the track for both you and your employer.

How do you feel about going back to work after the Summer break - excited or filled with dread? Are you all gung-ho and raring to go; or are you a goldfish like me and need a bit more gentleness to the beginning of the New Year? Are you planning to plan - what are your plans?