How to ease back into work after the summer break

Today marks the end of the second week of my teens being back at high school. Although I loved having them around over the summer holidays, their noisy *cough* enthusiastic presence over the break did rather throw my work routine out of kilter (in fact, out of the kilter and into next week). By the time September rolled around, I was more than happy to wave them off to school.

The first day they were back, I sat down at my desk with my computer and my coffee, all ready to take advantage of the peace and quiet and lack of teenage demands, and came over all deflated. I felt lost.

I’ve worked over the summer, with the exception of a two week break, but it’s been a battle to maintain any level of focus. Add to that the fact that many of my business contacts have children to tend and/or holidays to take, and my usually well-edged business path appeared suddenly overgrown and a tad vague.

So how did I get back on track?

I re-assessed my business

What’s working and what needs to be improved? Is there anything that should be cut out altogether?

I took a fresh look at:

  • my clients
  • my usual workload (both paid client work and work on my business itself)
  • my skills
  • my business practices
  • the value of earnings against effort
  • any possibilities to diversify
  • whether I needed to diversify
  • my income – was it sufficient or did I need to earn more?

I knew that one of my businesses wasn’t working anymore, or more accurately, the time I was spending on it wasn’t reflected in earnings. It’s a business that has been with me for over 20 years but I’m not the same person (with the same interests) that I was back then. In the end, I decided that I would close that business in the new year so I could concentrate more of my time and effort on this business instead.

I examined my boundaries

Working over the summer holidays meant moving my hours around to fit in trips out with the teens. With them back at school, I can return to my usual working hours.

But do those ‘usual’ hours still work for me?

What about boundaries with clients? And boundaries with friends and family too?

Checking your boundaries at least a couple of times a year is always worthwhile.

I checked my Inbox

Thankfully, I’d kept up to date with my emails but when I faced the backlog after my two weeks’ holiday, I didn’t know whether to be impressed that I was so popular or run screaming from the magnitude of emails waiting for my attention.

Here’s what I did:

  1. I deleted any shopping related emails.  I know that sounds harsh but I spent far too much money over the holidays. I don’t want the temptation of 30% off at Monsoon or a reduced membership to a specialist gin club at a time when I badly need to refurnish my bank account.
  2. I then looked for emails from friends and family and saved them to a folder for later, out of work, reading.
  3. I did the same for emails from businesses that can help me keep up to date with my skills and knowledge, so for instance, blog posts about developments in social media management.
  4. Any emails left after that culling, were work-related and I worked through them one at a time.

I wrote a To-Do List

Having re-assessed my business, examined my boundaries and sorted through my emails, I was fully equipped to create my To-Do list for the following week, the rest of the month, and to the end of the year, with one proviso – things change.

Any To-Do list should have an element of flexibility about it.

I caught up with my business contacts

As a home-working freelancer, it’s easy to become isolated from the world out there. You can’t assume that people will read your social media and blog posts, and hence know what’s going on with you. Sometimes, you have to reach out.

So I dropped an email to my clients to say “Hi, I’m back”. I replied to any outstanding work emails that required a response (and even those that didn’t, again, just to say ‘hi’). I checked my social media accounts to see if anyone had sent me a message, and to find out just what was going on in the world.

I got an early night (or two)

During the summer break, my bedtimes were all over the place, as were my energy levels.

Knowing that I have to be up at the same early time every weekday during school term time means that if these middle-aged bones are going to survive, I have to get (at least) seven hours sleep every night.

If your brain is still on holiday hours (as mine was for the first few days), keep a notepad by your bed to scribble down all those thoughts, ideas and worries that keep you awake.

I eased into work

There’s a temptation to have this ‘burst’ of energy and productivity on your first day back. Part of that, for me anyway, is the enthusiasm of getting back to work and not having to fend off teenage demands for a few hours at least.

The downside to setting this expectation of  let me at ’em is that (a) we burn out and/or (b) we don’t accomplish our targets and then feel incredibly guilty and down. Don’t beat yourself up like that.

On your first day back, maybe your first few days, be kind to yourself and take it easy. I’m not saying that you should do nothing. What I am saying is that it might be a good idea to allow yourself that time to acclimatise to your September work routine without unrealistic expectations.

 

So what about you? Has September spelled a blissful return to work or are you yearning for the summer holidays? Which ever it is, have a wonderful September.

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