Eleven days into January … this past week was the first full one for most back in the office after the Christmas and New Year holidays. Five days of work which, after maybe working a couple of days over the past few weeks, probably felt like a month.
This is the time when many start to snap back into reality – those wild, ambitious dreams you may have had when you were opening Christmas gifts and watching the ball drop a few days later may have melted away already. A work email inbox will do that to you.
I spent most of my holiday split between New York State and Connecticut. I wanted to keep as close to my regular routine as I could while still enjoying the holiday. While I don’t have weight loss goals anymore, I didn’t want to sit around and gain 10 pounds by enjoying all of the great holiday food my family makes. I wanted this holiday season to be different. Here are three ways you can start the New Year on the right note – and carry that momentum past January 2.
I’m a firm believer that a New Year isn’t the only time you should set goals. Any time you truly want to change – that’s the right time. It could be why so many people fail at the New Year’s Resolutions they set for themselves … they make “goals” because it seems like the right time, but they’re not really ready. That’s purely anecdotal and not scientific, but maybe I’m onto something.
Anyway… I had set high level goals after the Thanksgiving holiday for myself to begin in 2015. I had been thinking about the goals for awhile, so I had a clear idea of what I wanted to accomplish. The key to actually achieving your goals, however, is having a plan that outlines how you will reach those goals. So I took the extra time I had over the holidays to think about each goal and the small steps, measurable, I was willing to take on a monthly/quarterly basis. This allowed me to get my mind right and my daily planner ready for putting these goals into action once the calendar turned to 2015.
I love paper planners, but if you’re a tech fiend, then make automatic alerts on your calendar or take advantage of the plethora of productivity apps out there. It’s most important to use whatever works best for you.
Instead of just sitting around watching Maury Povich all day – and hey, who doesn’t love doing that – I performed these goal setting and execution exercises between 9am and 5:30pm. This meant I was still engaging my brain to complete tasks – just different ones than what I handle on a daily basis at my job.
Clear your slate, clear your apartment, clear EVERYTHING
In my last blog post, I talked about how simplifying everything is key to my sanity. I only keep what I need, throw away what I don’t. I’m ruthless about it, except for greeting cards and other mementos that my family and friends give to me. I knew that I was going to be away from my apartment for awhile, and I knew that the week leading to the Christmas holiday was going to be very busy. I knew that I had about 50 action items to complete at work before I went on holiday.
I also knew, however, that the biggest productivity killer is coming home to a pigsty. The biggest vacation killer is thinking about all the things you probably should have done for your job before you left. You want to enjoy vacation, and you want to come back and hit the ground running. How can you do that?
Make it a point to clear and clean what you need to before you go. It takes commitment, but it’s totally worth it.
- Take all of the items on your to-do list at work and prioritize them. What absolutely has to get done before you leave, and what could wait without penalty until you come back? Really think about that – talk to your supervisor, talk to your team, and figure that out. Your list will probably shrink a little bit. Commit to finishing what is absolutely vital, and then turn on your out of office. Non-essentials can wait until you return. News flash, most people take holiday the last two weeks of the year as well. They’re not sitting around waiting for you. Clear your slate so you can enjoy your holidays uninhibited.
- Make sure your home is clean before you leave. It’s easier for me because I have a studio apartment, but it’ll be the last thing you want to do when you come back from holiday. It’ll throw you off of your game for how you wanted to start 2015, because it’s certainly not taking out the trash and spending 45 minutes cleaning all of the dishes in your sink. Set aside an hour to clean your space before you leave. That way, when you come back, all you have to do is unpack your stuff and get started on what you really wanted to do. Same goes for your cubicle or office.
Keep as close to your regular rhythm as possible
It’s easy to sleep in until noon and do nothing for a couple of weeks to “rest and recuperate” after working hard leading up to a vacation. And why you should certainly enjoy that – remember, it’s like that third piece of pie … everything in moderation.
The more you stray from your normal routine, the harder it will be for you to snap back into it once you’re finished with your vacation. I’m usually an early riser – wake up around 5-6am, go to the gym, read/write, go to work, see friends, go to sleep. While I wasn’t going to be heading to the office, I still wanted to go to a gym, keep up on current events, write, read, see friends and family, and sleep.
So I worked out in advance finding a gym near where I’d be staying for the holiday so I could have a place to go after I woke up in the morning. Then, once I came back, I’d do the same thing I always do post-gym, but then instead of going to work I’d work on my goal execution or read … something I would love to have more time to do but can’t always get it. I’d sneak in an episode of Maury, see friends, and sleep – but keeping this regular morning routine for me allowed me to actually rest and recuperate. I didn’t feel sluggish from not working out, didn’t feel guilty for eating more, and knew I wasn’t falling behind on anything I actually wanted to accomplish.
Studies find that those who sleep in on weekends, OK, sleep 2-3 hours later usually than they do during the week, are setting themselves up for feeling more tired than those who keep a relatively similar sleep schedule all week long.
Vacation is for resting and relaxing – no doubt about that. But rethink your traditional view of what rest and relaxation actually means. If you don’t, you might be defeating the purpose of your time off and not even know it.